Why UDF is in a catch-22 in by-election bound Wayanad

The Wayanad parliamentary seat fell vacant on March 23 as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as MP after a Surat court found him guilty and sentenced the Congress leader to two years imprisonment in a criminal defamation case. Photo: File Image

Wayanad: With the by-election imminent in the Wayanad parliamentary constituency, earlier represented by former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, the United Democratic Front (UDF) has been caught in a catch-22 in the district with the arrest of K K Abraham, the state general secretary of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC).

Abraham was nabbed in connection with the ‘Rs 25-lakh loan fraud’ at the Congress-operated Primary Co-operative Bank, Pulpalli.

Though there were many complaints against the bank, the fraud was exposed only after the recent suicide of a farmer Rajendran Nair (60) at Pulppalli. Nair ended his life by consuming poison 'in protest against the bank authorities' who he believed had failed to act on his complaints regarding the fraud.

Former president of the co-operative bank, K K Abraham was arrested by police late at night on May 31, after serial protests by farmers’ outfits. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by the police had also arrested former bank secretary K T Remadevi in connection with the fraud.

Though he had availed only a loan of Rs 80,000, going by the bank records, Mr Nair had pledged his land in the bank for an amount of Rs 25 lakh. After prolonged mental agony and running from pillar to post explaining his innocence, Nair took the extreme step.

Apart from the state police, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had initiated a probe into the incident; a raid was conducted at the tainted bank on June 9 to unearth more irregularities. There were also widespread allegations that many such complaints of irregularities were hushed up by the authorities.

Among the seven legislative constituencies that form the Wayanad parliamentary constituency, the district has three legislative constituencies of Kalpetta, Mananthavadi and Sulthan Bathery.

The Wayanad parliamentary seat fell vacant on March 23 as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as member of parliament after a Surat court found him guilty and sentenced the Congress leader to two years imprisonment in a criminal defamation case.

As per section 151 A of the Representation of the People Act 1951, the Election Commission is mandated to hold a by-poll to elect a new MP by September 23, 2023, though the new MP would have a rather short term in the parliament.

The consequential resignation of Abraham as the general secretary of KPCC was not sufficient to quell the fury of the farmers as well as Congress workers, as the party is yet to take any action against the accused.

Known for his affinity to the Congress leader K C Venugopal, Congress camps hostile to Abraham point to the lethargy of the leadership to initiate the basic disciplinary step of suspending him.

A leader known to be close to the ‘I’ group of Congress, though Mr Abraham had resigned from the post of KPCC general secretary after the incident, the failure of the party in taking basic disciplinary action has irked hostile Congress camps.

"A sub-committee constituted by KPCC headed by KPCC vice president V T Balram had conducted an inquiry into the alleged fraud and submitted a report that stated that K K Abraham had indeed played a dubious role in the fraud. The party had demanded him to resign from the post of general secretary which he did in time," said district Congress committee president N D Appachan, also a nominee of the Congress (I) group.

When queried why no more action was taken, Appachan said: "Now he is merely a primary member of the party; suspending his membership is not that important."

On the possibility of a by-election victory, Appachan said that it is only a distant possibility as the NDA had already succeeded in what they were on to, which is keeping Rahul Gandhi away from the parliament.

LDF under shadow of collusion

Meanwhile, being skeptical of the sincerity of the LDF government, the farmers had formed Janakeeya Samara Samithi, a public action council, as they say the state government is not taking strict action against the accused.

Though a vigilance inquiry was on against the bank for the last two years, no action was taken till the death of the farmer. The action council was to stage a sit-in in front of the bank on Saturday June 17 demanding the arrest of all the accused in connection with the serial fraud.

Action council leader V S Chacko said the police are focusing only on the ‘Rs 25 lakh fraud’ which is just the tip of the iceberg. “There are many complaints already submitted by members of the bank; attempts are on behind the curtain to pressurise the complainants to withdraw their complaints by offering compensation,” he alleged.

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