Four high-profile arrests in four weeks and the election season in Kerala is truly off to a stormy start. It isn’t that there was ever a dearth of issues to fight elections in Kerala, but the last couple of months have seen a flood. The latest in the series of arrests is that of V K Ebrahim Kunju—a Muslim League MLA and a former minister—in the Palarivattom flyover scam on Wednesday.
The 750-metre flyover in Kochi, constructed during the previous UDF regime in which Kunju was PWD minister, is being demolished and rebuilt. For, it had developed cracks within three months of being opened in 2016 and had to be closed after being in use for just 30 months.
It’s not his arrest that raises questions, but the timing. His role in the flyover’s poor construction has been under investigation for the last one-and-a-half years, and he was arraigned as an accused in the case by the state’s vigilance and anti-corruption bureau in March this year.
The detainment, however, has come just when the state is heading into local body polls. It was about two weeks ago that another opposition MLA, M C Kamaruddin, was arrested in an investment fraud case after a months-long investigation. Expectedly, the opposition UDF has alleged political motive in both.
If there’s a whiff of political conspiracy in these election-time arrests, it is because the ruling LDF is currently finding itself cornered in the face of investigation by multiple central agencies and the consequent arrests of senior bureaucrat M Sivasankar (gold smuggling) and CPM leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s son Bineesh (funding of drug cartel).
The question is if the action against the leaders of the rival front is aimed at blunting the moral, and hence electoral, advantage that the opposition UDF seems to be enjoying at the moment. There’s no doubt that the guilty must be punished, irrespective of political affiliation and societal status.
The crimes that Kunju and Kamaruddin are accused of committing are serious enough to necessitate their arrest and prosecution. However, it must be said that using state agencies to browbeat political rivals at the time of election is against the rules of fair play and certainly in conflict with the spirit of democracy.