THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For the first time, the Kerala assembly took up for discussion the gold smuggling row and allegations aganst Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, leading to heated exchanges between members on Tuesday. While the Opposition sought to create an impression that the government was evading questions, the CM accused the UDF of toeing the Sangh Parivar’s agenda.
In a move aimed at taking the Opposition unawares, the government agreed to discuss an adjournment motion moved by Shafi Parambil on the smuggling row. Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan strongly pitched a demand for handing over the investigation to the CBI. The house, after detailed discussions, rejected the motion after the CM’s reply. However, the UDF succeeded in creating an impression that the government was politically cornered.
In his nearly one-hour-long reply, the CM evaded all key questions raised by the Opposition into the smuggling row and Swapana Suresh’s allegations against him. Pinarayi, however lost his cool, while referring to Mathew Kuzhalnadan’s allegation against his daughter. He retorted that the Opposition legislators were trying to raise baseless allegations to help the BJP which had failed to make it to the Kerala assembly.
Satheesan asked why the CM and the government did not resort to lawful remedies on Swapna’s allegations and instead took illegal steps. “Out of fear they made illegal moves and that gave credence to Swapna’s allegations. A complaint could have been filed for lodging a bogus case. Or a defamation case could have been filed. But no such lawful remedies were taken. Instead, they resorted to unlawful measures,” he alleged.
Satheesan alleged that ADGPs were deployed to parley with mediator Shaj Kiran at Ernakulam. “If the CM was innocent, why did he approach the middleman via two ADGPs,” he asked.“As in the Solar case where the probe against former CM Oommen Chandy was handed over to the CBI, the probe on Swapna’s complaints should be investigated by the CBI,” Satheesan said.
The CM put up a defence alleging that the BJP-UDF nexus was at play to discredit the LDF government.“The woman who raised the allegation was given all the facilities by the Sangh parivar. They gave her a job, car, boarding, security, salary and a lawyer. They gave her the letterhead in which she wrote a complaint to the prime minister,” he said.
Government does not need to deploy middlemen: CM
The CM further alleged that the opposition was treating the words of a person accused of gold smuggling and giving false statements as an inviolable truth. “This is being done to vitiate the general atmosphere in the state and the police took a case after getting to know about it,” he claimed.
Justifying the police case against Swapna, the CM said the step was taken as the smuggling case accused with certain interest levelled fake allegations against political leaders. He rejected the accusation that the government deployed middlemen to resolve the matter and said the government does not have the need for middlemen.The middlemen were in fact a part of the script penned by the BJP and the Congress, he alleged. The CM also brushed aside the allegation of dollar smuggling as baseless and grounded on hearsay.
Spat on ‘Kupamandukam’
The assembly witnessed a spat between ruling front members and Satheesan over the latter’s usage of ‘Kupamandukam’, which means ‘frog in the well’ implying a person with limited knowledge. Satheesan had used this expression when Pinarayi alleged that Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi did not visit Zakia Jafri, whose husband Ihsan Jafri was killed by a mob during anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat.
The LDF members alleged that Satheesan had insulted the CM. Satheesan replied he used it in the literary sense to defend his party chief, who had met Zakia and her son four days after the carnage. “Since the building was under police cover and no one was allowed in, Sonia met them in Circuit house,” he said.
Pinarayi quoted former Gujarat DGP R B Sreekumar’s book ‘Gujarat: Behind the curtain’ and argued that the Congress leaders had in fact prevented Sonia from meeting Zakia. “If they had indeed met, show that photo at least in Veekshanam if not National Herald,” he said.
Big two absent
Though the UDF camp valiantly upped the ante against the government, its top leaders Ramesh Chennithala and Oommen Chandy were conspicuous by absence. Chandy was present in the house till 11.45am and then went to the KPCC office and didn’t return, while Chennithala is now in the US. Their absence was repeatedly raised by the LDF camp to poke at alleged schism in the party.