Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala finance minister Dr T M Thomas Isaac has been snubbed by the CPM leadership over denouncing last week's raids on several branches of the Kerala State Financial Enterprises Limited. A section of party leaders feel that the Vigilance action would have passed off as routine action, but its instant denouncement by Isaac turned it into a controversy.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has minced no words in correcting Isaac who had termed the raid as a crazy move. "This is no one's madness, but Vigilance's right," Pinarayi remarked, backing the raids and referring to Isaac's outburst.
"Let the (inspection) report come out then you will know whose madness it is. The people concerned will inquire why there was a lapse on the part of Vigilance. And if there is any lapse we know how to rectify it," the finance minister had said at the weekend soon after the Vigilance action.
With the chief minister making his displeasure public, Isaac has now realised there is no party backing for his targeting of the Vigilance scrutiny on the chit fund company.
"The issue is settled with the chief minister's remarks. He is the head of the council of ministers," a senior CPM leader stated.
Party may seek explanation
However, it would be wrong to assume the issue has been buried by the party. Isaac will have to do some explaining about his public outburst. The chief minister will also have to clarify as to how Vigilance went ahead with the raids without even informing the minister concerned. (The KSFE comes under the finance ministry and the Vigilance department is part of the home department headed by the chief minister.)
Veteran CPM leader Anathalavattom Anandan who made a scathing attack on the Vigilance raids too will have to explain his position.
After reacting stridently on the KSFE raids for two consecutive days, Isaac has toned down his criticism, but he is unlikely to respond to CM's comments.
The issue was not taken up by CPM leaders at the discussions held at the CPM headquarters, AKG Centre, as acting state secretary A Vijayaraghavhan was not in the Kerala capital.
Only Anathalvattom Anandan was present during the discussions led by politburo members S Ramachadran Pillai and M A Baby. The chief minister and finance minister did not take part.
Some in the party argue that the occasion chosen by Isaac to launch an all-out attack on the Vigilance especially when the chief minister was on the defensive over retracting an amendment to the Kerala Police Act cannot be taken so innocently.
It is even suspected that a section in the party leadership led by CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and politburo member M A Baby are using the opportunity to take control over the organization and the government.
The chief minister on his part reiterated the "media syndicate" charge which is usually brought to the fore whenever intra-party issues rock CPM. As the Vigilance is composed of police personnel, the CM has likely realised that some criticism was aimed at his police advisor Raman Srivastava. This explains the chief minister publicly justifying the former DGP at his press conference on Monday.
'Vigilance well within its rights'
The chief minister has also clarified that in the event of complaints of irregularities in government or semi-government establishments, the Vigilance has the responsibility to carry out raids.
Raids are held after the intelligence wing conducts a secret probe into the information received. If the information is found to be correct then the source reports are prepared. These reports are examined at the Vigilance headquarters before issuing orders for raids.
Vigilance director's permission is not needed for such action.
How Isaac was spurned
The government is of the view that Isaac's tendency to needlessly intervene in issues was resulting in unwarranted setbacks for the ruling dispensation. While the finance minister’s recent allegations connected with the leakage of CAG report on KIIFB loans received wide public support initially, the issue boomeranged when Isaac failed to convincingly state whether it was the final or draft report. Ultimately the CAG had to issue a statement saying that it was the final report.
The KSFE raids triggered a major controversy only because of the finance minister's naivety. The Vigilance had shared the details of the raids with the media on the same day on November 27.
However, it became big news when the finance minister reacted strongly against the raids on November 28. With his police advisor being dragged into the controversy, the chief minister also sought details from the Vigilance on Monday morning.
The documents related to all raids carried out in 2019 and this year till date were sent to the chief minister's office from the Vigilance headquarters. The Vigilance apprised the chief minister that apart from routine inspection no other intervention had taken place.
After getting a complete briefing from the Vigilance, the chief minister decided to address the media on Monday evening.
CPI editorial slams raids
The editorial in the CPI mouthpiece 'Janayugam' has strongly criticized the raids carried out by Vigilance on KSFE branches across the state. The editorial pointed out that the people had the right to know the inspiration and the mindset behind the Vigilance raids which were carried out by keeping the finance minister in the dark and also in a manner as if action was being taken against an economic offender.
The action of a government department bringing the financial institution, which has played a prominent role in Kerala's development, under a cloud is quite unnatural and condemnable, the editorial said.