Thiruvananthapuram: A controversy has erupted around the Loka Kerala Sabha, a Non-resident Keralites convention, to be held in the United States of America this month with allegations cropping up that money was being charged from 'pravasis' to stand or sit close to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during the three-day event. NORKA vice chairperson P Sreeramakrishnan denied the allegations and said that the opportunity to meet and interact with the Chief Minister would not be governed by who pays how much.
At the same time, he noted that it is a sponsored programme.
“Kerala government and NORKA handled the travel arrangements and the event was organised by the people in the US.No registration fee was charged or fundraising was carried out in the name of the Chief Minister,” said Ramakrishnan.
It is alleged that amounts ranging from USD 25,000 to USD 100,000 was being charged as part of the "offer" to sit or stand close to the Kerala Chief Minister during the conference which will be held in New York on June 9, 10 and 11.
Leader of Opposition in the state assembly V D Satheesan said, "What is happening in the US in connection with the Loka Kerala Sabha is embarrassing for the southern state. It is wrong. It is not in keeping with the principles of Kerala and is not acceptable to the people of the state."
Satheesan contended that by charging varying amounts, "pravasis are being differentiated based on money".
"A Communist CM is showing to the world the difference between the haves and have-nots. Rs 82 lakh to sit close to the CM? So those who cannot afford to pay the amounts will remain outside the gates?
"Who permitted this fund collection in the name of the state and the CM? Action should be taken against those involved. The CM should avoid the event for this reason," he said.
Meanwhile,Kerala Finance Minister K N Balagopal told reporters that he was not aware that any fundraising was carried out as it was NORKA which was handling everything.
He said that no wrong activity would be carried out with active knowledge of the state government.
( With PTI inputs)