Kochi: The controversy over a grand music concert organised by a group of Malayalam film artistes escalated with some political leaders alleging a scam behind it and the organisers denying the charges.
'Karuna' music concert, organised by the Kochi Music Foundation (KMF) on November 1, 2019, stirred a row recently after it was revealed that the organisers had not donated the money raised to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund as promised.
It was revealed by the state finance department on February 6 in a reply to an Right To Information Act query. This prompted some BJP and Congress leaders to accuse the organisers of cheating and corruption by the KMF.
Filmmaker Aashiq Abu, one of the main organisers and a known CPM supporter, came under harsh criticism from Congress MP Hibi Eden and BJP leader Sandeep Warrier.
Following this, Aashiq posted a photo of the cheque worth Rs 6,22,000 donated to the CMDRF by the KMF.
As per the date on the cheque, it was issued only on February 14, days after the controversy erupted.
Aashiq posted the cheque's copy on Facebook on Sunday in a bid to silence his critics, especially Hibi.
In his post, Aashiq said the charge that the concert was organised to raise funds for the CMDRF was wrong. He said the KMF organised the programme on its own to declare the beginning of the Kochi International Music Festival.
"We had decided to donate the amount from ticket sales to the CMDRF. We have done it," he said. As per reports, the ticket sales came to around Rs 6,30,000.
He also taunted Hibi saying they could issue the free passes requested from the MP's office because it was not a charity event.
Clearly not in a mood to give up, Hibi retorted to Aashiq Abu terming the former's explanation a failed script.
Hibi said Aashiq's claim that Karuna was not organised to raise funds for CMDRF was baseless.
He also posted a copy of the letter submitted by the KMF to the Regional Sports Center (RSC) seeking access to the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Kadavanthra, to conduct the programme there.
"We are planning to organise our first official event, 'Karuna' in November as an effort to raise funds for CM's flood relief fund," the letter reads.
Aashiq had said that the RSC gave them the space for free as a gesture of affection.
Hibi, however, said that the RSC council was reluctant to entertain the request and finally provided KMF with the space following pressure from the chief minister's office.
He said there was pressure to display the ads of the programme on the pillars of Kochi Metro also.
The Ernakulam MP rubbished the claim about seeking free passes. He also wanted to know whether the artistes who attended the event were paid or not.
Aashiq or other officials of the KMF has not reacted to Hibi's allegations yet. Onmanorama could not contact Ashiq Abu for a response.
The organisers had reportedly informed the government in the first week of November through a letter that they incurred a loss.
Following media reports about the RTI reply, music composer Bijibal, secretary of KMF, had said that it would be donating the money made out of the ticket sales to the CMDRF by March 31, the end of the financial year.
Bijibal had said that though the stadium was let out and the musicians agreed to perform for free, there was still a lot of expenses on sound, lights, cameras, print and publicity and so on. He was quoted in a report as saying that the expenditure came to more than Rs 22 lakh.
Collector distances himself from KMF
The office-bearers of the KMF suffered another jolt as the District Collector S Suhas warned them of legal action for misusing his name as the patron of the organisation. He sent a letter to Bijibal regarding this. Bijibal had told media that the collector was the patron of KMF.
Bijibal later clarified that it was a technical error.
The issue, with strong political overtones, is being widely discussed over social media.
Congress leader V T Balram, MLA, sought a probe into the programme terming it a scam. He said there should be leniency on those against whom charges have been levelled, since they are politically inclined to the CPM.