Amit Shah questions Pinarayi over gold, dollar smuggling cases

Amit Shah
Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Photo: Twitter/@BJP4India

Thiruvananthapuram: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday lambasted Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for attacking central agencies probing the gold and dollar smuggling cases in the state and asked him to make it clear whether the main accused in these rackets had worked in his office or not.

Hitting the campaign trail in poll-bound Kerala, he also slammed the Congress for forging a tie-up with CPI(M) to take on the BJP in West Bengal while fighting the Left parties in the southern state and remaining 'silent' when the state was rocked by protests over Sabarimala temple women's entry issue.

Speaking at the culmination of the BJP's rally 'Vijaya Yathra' at the Shanghumugham Beach in state capital ahead of the April 6 assembly elections, he sought to know if Vijayan's office tried to influence the Customs officials in the case.

"The chief minister is alleging that the central agencies are acting as political tools (of BJP-led NDA government). I would like to ask a few questions. I want to ask the CM if the dollar/gold scam main accused had worked in his office or not?" he asked, referring to Swapna Suresh, who has been arrested in connection with the cases.

Shah also wanted Vijayan to clarify if his former principal secretary had given the accused a top post in a government project on the basis of a fake degree certificate, if she was paid Rs 3 lakh per month and whether she was a regular visitor to his official residence.

Suresh was removed from a contractual post in the Space Park project under the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd after her name cropped up in connection with the gold smuggling through diplomatic channel last year.

Viayan's then principal secretary and IT Secretary M Sivasankar was removed and suspended based on findings of an official panel over allegations of his links to Suresh.

A day after the Customs, probing the gold smuggling case, claimed Suresh had made "shocking revelations" against him and others over the dollar 'smuggling', Vijayan had on Saturday hit out at the agency saying it was trying to "defame" state cabinet members in connection with the case.

Suresh was arrested in connection with seizure of around 30 kg of gold worth Rs 15 crore on July 5 last year by the Customs from the international airport in the city from a diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE consulate.

Besides the Customs, the gold smuggling case is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency.

During the course of the probe, alleged smuggling of $1,90,000 (equivalent to Rs 1.30 crore) by a former finance head of the UAE Consulate to Muscat in Oman also surfaced.

Vijayan, who had been maintaining that he would not shield anyone found guilty, has alleged the probe agencies were being used for carrying out a campaign for the BJP and Congress in the state going for assembly elections on April 6.

Shah said though he had with him more corruption charges against the government, "I do not want to confuse the CM" and only wanted answers to his queries.

The Home Minister said Kerala used to be known for development, literacy and for promoting tourism, but "with the ruling LDF and opposition UDF coming to power alternately has resulted in making the state a platform for political violence".

Attacking the LDF and the UDF, he said they were not worried about the people, but their "vote bank".

"The Left is associated with the SDPI (Social Democratic Party of India), a political outfit of Popular Front of India, while the Congress is fighting the elections with Muslim League. I don't understand the policy of the Congress party. While they fight us by joining hands with the CPI(M) in West Bengal, here they fight the Left," he said.

The senior BJP leader also accused the Congress of remaining 'silent' during the protests over the state government decision to implement the Supreme Court order allowing women in the 10-50 age group into the Lord Ayyappa shrine in 2018, lifting a traditional ban on them.

"The Congress party was silent when the Left government attacked the Sabarimala devotees," he said, referring to the protests that turned violent at several places.

The BJP and right wing outfits had held protests across the state after two women in their 40s entered the shrine on the basis of the apex court verdict and cases had been registered against the protestors.

"BJP strongly believes that the Sabarimala temple and its administration should be handed over to the devotees and there should not be any government interference," he said.

Shah said while the Narendra Modi government has undertaken a massive vaccination drive against COVID-19 across the country, it was unfortunate that the cases were rising in Kerala.

About 40 per cent of the active cases were reported from the southern state, he added.

The Union Minister also attacked the Left government over its handling of the two consecutive floods that had ravaged the state in 2018 and 2019.

More than "500 people were killed", but the government was interested in saving the gold and dollar scam accused, he alleged.

"After the Modi government came to power, nowhere else over 500 people lost their lives in a natural calamity, but here it happened. They were not interested in saving lives but were in saving the gold and dollar scam accused," he said.

Listing out the various development activities of the Narendra Modi government, Shah said, over 13 crore poor women in the country were given LPG connections.

Kerala, he said, had received various central projects worth over Rs 10,000 crore and these included a petrochemical project and the Pugalur-Thrissur power transmission line.

Shah wanted the BJP workers to raise the slogan of "Bharat mata ki jai" along with him and said it should be heard from Kerala to West Bengal, where too the BJP is making a strong bid to come to power.

(With inputs from PTI)

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