THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The latest revelation by the New Delhi bench of the Income Tax Interim Settlement Board (ITISB) sparked a political controversy in Kerala, pushing both the ruling LDF and Opposition UDF on the back foot. It was the CPM that first landed in a fix, after the ITISB bench said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s daughter T Veena allegedly received Rs 1.72 crore from Cochin Minerals and Rutile Ltd (CMRL) for consultancy services that were never provided.
As per reports, Veena and her company Exalogic Solutions had an agreement with CMRL to provide consultancy services, that were reportedly not provided. The issue came before the ITISB after the I-T department alleged illegal transaction that involved CMRL paying Rs 1.72 crore to the firm in the guise of monthly instalments.
As the news broke, the Congress demanded a judicial probe, while the BJP urged the CM to break his silence. While the CPM central leadership chose to stay away from the row, CMRL said the CM was not involved in the matter and that they had made the payment as per their agreement with Exalogic.
The I-T department had initiated a probe based on certain diary jottings. However, by Wednesday evening, it was revealed that more names, from both the ruling and Opposition camps, figured in the diary jottings.
Congress legislator Mathew Kuzhalnadan was the first to latch on to the controversy on Wednesday morning. Levelling serious allegations against Veena, he challenged the CM to come clean.
“The CM’s daughter accepted money from a company engaged in black sand mining. The CM has the responsibility to tell people what actually happened,” Kuzhalnadan said. In 2022, he had raised serious allegations against Exalogic Solutions.
Congress state president K Sudhakaran sought a judicial probe into the issue. “These are not mere political allegations, but findings of a central agency. Despite several charges, there has been no investigation. If there are claims against Congress leaders, let those be probed too,” Sudhakaran told reporters in New Delhi.
By evening, other names recorded as diary jottings by CMRL’s Chief Financial Officer K S Suresh Kumar came out. They included Kunhalikutty, A Govindan, Oommen Chandy, Pinarayi, Ebrahimkunju and Ramesh Chennithala.Soon after, Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan told TNIE there was nothing unusual as the jottings were election funds.
“The leaders must have received contribution towards election campaigning. During election, it is common practice to get funds from businessmen. There is nothing unusual in it,” he said.While the UDF is likely to raise the issue in the assembly, there’s confusion in the opposition camp whether the issue would backfire.
“UDF is unlikely to raise the issue as adjournment motion or submission and may try to bring it up indirectly,” said a source. Meanwhile, BJP state president K Surendran urged Pinarayi to break his silence, while Union Minister V Muraleedharan sought to know why Satheesan was trying to protect the CM.
“Within hours of reports against the CM’s daughter, it was decided to adjourn the assembly session on Thursday. The party which shouts Adani, Adani in the Parliament cannot utter a slogan ‘Kartha, Kartha’ in the assembly. Why is Satheesan trying to protect Pinarayi?” he asked.
‘CM, family being targeted’
The CPM central leadership chose to stay away from the controversy. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury told reporters that reports of the instalment row had come to his attention. However, the state leadership will respond to the issue, he said. Senior CPM leader A K Balan feigned ignorance about the allegations and alleged that a section of the media had been targeting the CM and his family for long. “It should be suspected whether an agenda is being set ahead of the election,” he said.
‘Paid as per deal’
CMRL officials denied any illegal transactions in the deal with Exalogic Solutions. Speaking to a news channel, CMRL joint MD Sharan S Kartha ruled out the CM’s involvement. “Our agreement is with Exalogic Solutions to provide software support and we made the payment (Rs 1.72 crore) over three years, or 36 months. We received the service, and paid the amount as per the deal,” he said.