Kerala CM's aide and IT Secretary Sivasankar shown the door

M Sivasankar
M Sivasankar

It is reliably learnt that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has asked M Sivasankar, designated 'secretary to the CM', to step down from the post. Former Kannur collector Mir Muhammad will replace Sivasankar in the Chief Minister's Office.

It was also reported that Sivasankar has been removed from the crucial post of Electronics and Information Technology principal secretary. K Mohammed Y Safirulla IAS will take charge as the new IT secreatary.

Sivasankar's removal from the CMO, according to sources, has been necessitated by the possibility that he could be questioned by the Customs in connection with the smuggling of gold using diplomatic channels. A top officer in the CMO being questioned by the Customs would have been politically damaging for the Chief Minister.

After he has stepped down, Sivasankar has applied for long leave. “I have written to the chief secretary seeking a long leave. I am yet to get a reply,” Sivasankar told Onmanorama.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala had earlier sought to implicate the CMO in the scandal. He alleged that two ranking officials from the CMO had called up the Customs and intervened on behalf of Swapna Suresh. He identified one of them as Sivasankar but did not reveal the other name. The BJP state president K Surendran had also alleged that the first call to the Customs office was made from the Chief Minister's Office. The Chief Minister trashed the charge calling it "nonsense". However, he seemed bothered by the appointment of Swapna under the IT Department.

That Sivasankar would be ticked off was clear when the Chief Minister said on July 6 that Swapna Suresh, considered one of the kingpins of he gold smuggling racket, was appointed without his knowledge.

K Mohammed Y Safirulla IAS, former Kannur collector Mir Muhammad
K Mohammed Y Safirulla IAS, former Kannur collector Mir Muhammad

It was said that there was a Crime Branch case against Swapna Suresh for a fake sexual harassment complaint she had allegedly levelled against a former Air India official, and the Intelligence wing also had also put down adverse remarks against her. Still, Swapna Suresh was placed in a crucial post in the IT Department (operations manager at Space Park under Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd). The charge was, it happened because of her close links to Sivasankar. The people in the apartment complex where Swapna lives have testified that Sivasankar was a regular visitor to the woman's apartment.

The Opposition leader had also hinted that Swapna was the nominee of the controversial auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a firm Chennithala said the Chief Minister was interested in.

This is the second time in the last three COVID months that Sivasankar has found himself on the defensive. When the Sprinklr controversy erupted, the Chief Minister had asked Sivasankar to publicly explain the reason for picking Sprinklr. Sivasankar had said the Chief Minister had no idea of the consultations he had held with Sprinklr. "He just said yes to my proposal," Sivasankar had said. It was then felt that the Chief Minster had managed to effectively transfer the blame to his secretary.

Now, sources close to the Chief Minister said he would feel terribly let down if it was proved that Sivasankar had helped Swapna in any way.

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