CPI (M) defence of minister facing probe in Kerala gold smuggling case raises eyebrows

South India

The minister, who had interacted with Swapana Suresh, the prime accused in the gold smuggling case, was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate for nearly three hours on Friday. 

The strong attempt being made by Communist of India (Marxist) to defend Kerala Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel after he was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the gold smuggling case has raised eyebrows in political circles in the state.

The CPI (M) politburo and the state secretariat rallied behind Jaleel, who joined the party after he quit the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) before the Assembly elections in 2016, after opposition parties took to streets for demanding his resignation.

Both have not only given a clean chit to the minister but also found fault with the ED though Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan claimed that the central agencies were involved in the investigation into the gold smuggling case on the basis of the request he made with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The CPI (M) State Secretariat, which met on Saturday, described the questioning of Jaleel politically motivated. Curiously, neither the government nor the party had raised any such charge against the central agency when they questioned the chief minister’s principal private secretary and several officials in connection with the gold smuggling case. In fact, Vijayan had claimed till the other day that the investigation by the central agencies was going on in the right direction.

The ED had summoned the minister for questioning on Friday, September 11, after they suspected that a consignment containing the Quran the minister received from the UAE Consulate in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram may have contained smuggled gold. The external affairs ministry had also found his liaison with the consulate a violation of the protocol.

The Customs, which seized 30 kg of gold smuggled in a diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE consulate, had even termed the minister’s action of receiving the Quran from UAE through diplomatic channels a "a prima facie violation of FCRA" (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act).

The Congress-led United Democratic Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party said that Jaleel had no right to continue in the ministry as his actions tantamount to anti-national activities. BJP state president Surendran alleged that the CPI (M) was protecting the minister as the chief minister himself was hand in glove with the gold smuggling racket.

He pointed out that the chief minister had sought the resignation of three ministers-EP Jayarajan, Saseendran and Thomas Chandy in lesser charges. The chief minister asked Jayarajan to step down following allegations that he had appointed one his relatives in the government.

“Jaleel was also found guilty of such nepotism. The person he appointed in violation of norms was even dismissed and the salary given to him was recovered. In spite of this, he was allowed to continue in the ministry. The double standard in the case of Jaleel is because the government has something to hide in his case,” says Surendran.

Both the BJP and the UDF have affirmed that they will continue their agitation till Jaleel is ousted from the state cabinet. The agitation launched by both the parties since the day Jaleel was questioned is continuing in the state.

Image Credit: Onmanorma


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