Hasty steps over charges add to problems for CM: Experts

Published on Jul 04, 2022 12:25 AM IST
The latest in the series is the dramatic arrest of former legislator and Kerala Congress leader PC George on Saturday in a sexual harassment case.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan (PTI)
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan (PTI)
By, Thiruvananthapuram

Party cadres affectionately call him “captain” for his ability to steer out of knotty problems, and his detractors dub him “Modi in mundu (dhoti)”, citing his tough style of functioning. But now, both sides admit, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan is going through one of the toughest patches of his career.

Ever since Swapna Suresh, the main accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case, gave her statement in a court under section 164 of the CrPC last month, where she alleged the involvement of Vijayan and his family members in the infamous case, the CPI (M) government has invited more problems than solving any by its knee-jerk reactions, experts pointed out.

The latest in the series is the dramatic arrest of former legislator and Kerala Congress leader PC George on Saturday in a sexual harassment case. He was arrested under non-bailable provisions but secured bail on the same evening after the court said the arrest norms were not met and questioned the credibility of the complainant, an accused in a solar cheating case and facing more than two-dozen cheating cases.

“The government’s hasty decisions sowed seeds of suspicion in many. If Swapna’s allegations were wrong, the CM should have filed a defamation suit against her. Instead, he is using cops to silence her and her supporters,” said political observer A Jayashankar.

A fresh round of trouble started for the CM after the disclosure of Swapna in the first week of June, in which she alleged the “CM was aware of all activities happening in the UAE consulate in the state capital” and big biryani pots were sent to his official residence from the consulate.

She also alleged that his daughter Veena Vijayan was the “master brain behind the Sprinklr controversy”, in which crucial data of the state was handed over to the US firm. The gold smuggling case surfaced after the seizure of 30 kg of gold from the consulate two years ago.

The government acted swiftly after Swapna’s disclosure – the term of the judicial commission against the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was extended and a case was registered against her, George and journalist Nandakumar based on a complaint filed by former minister K T Jaleel.

On June 18, Nandakumar was arrested in an old case but Swapna managed pre-arrest bail, and Geroge’s arrest also fizzled out. A case also was slapped against Swapna’s lawyer R Krishnaraj after dusting off an old caste slur complaint, but the Kerala high court granted him bail on Friday.

“The CM cannot implicate me in a cooked-up sexual harassment case like this. His criminal mind has been exposed yet again. I will go to the ED with all documents and evidence against him and his family members. No CM of the state stooped like this,” said George.

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) convenor E P Jayarajan said the ongoing slanderous campaign let loose by the Congress-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine cannot dent Vijayan’s image. “He is made of pure iron and such frivolous complaints would not affect him. People know him well. The Congress has joined Sangh Parivar outfits to weaken a democratically-elected secular government,” he said.

On the other hand, Congress leaders have been raising allegations of a BJP-CPI (M) nexus as part of “Congress-mukt Bharat” propounded by home minister Amit Shah, pointing towards the “go slow and dithering in many central agency-driven probes, including the gold smuggling case”. Party leader Rahul Gandhi also endorsed their charges on Saturday.

“It is clear anybody who opposes the BJP faces the ED. But the BJP is happy with the CPI (M). It seems there is an understanding between both, which is why the ED is not after the CM,” he said in Wayanad, without mentioning the gold smuggling case.

Adding to the government’s woes, police are yet to make any lead in the case related to the bomb attack on CPI (M) headquarters AKG Centre last Thursday.

State Congress chief K Sudhakaran alleged that the “attack was planned and executed by E P Jayarajan to divert attention from burning issues.”

“The CPI (M) is exposed. It seems the party is going West Bengal way. You cannot last forever building on diversionary tactics and muscle power,” he said.

A section of party leaders also admits in private that recurring allegations and knee-jerk reactions dented the image of the party and government. “It is sad the government courted a known cheating case convict to remove slurs heaped on it. Some of its recent actions expose its worries and tribulations,” said writer and political analyst Umesh Babu.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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