Column | State government, CPI(M) hemmed in by a multi-agency probe  

At least six Central agencies are ‘hovering’ around the Kerala State Government Secretariat and it is heard that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will also join the league soon.

The Pinarayi government is in that way facing an unprecedented situation, one that Kerala has never seen before.

The Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, is not one to lose his self-confidence. But the party and the CM cannot afford to take it lightly. This is especially so when the CM himself was once under CBI scrutiny in the Lavalin case.

The dichotomy of the CPI(M) stand is this: the party proclaims loud that any Central agency is welcome to investigate anything and the party is trying all means to prevent the CBI from taking up the Periya double homicide case. (Two youth Congress workers were hacked to death by motorcycle-borne assailants in February 2019 in Kasaragod’s Periya).

Resisting the CBI

Also, the party is not ready to heed to Congress’s demand for CBI probe in the Venjaramoodu murders. It is evident that the CPI(M) is still the old party which nurses a grudge with any ‘Central’ investigation.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is inquiring into gold smuggling and hawala deals; the Enforcement Directorate (ED), black money trail and foreign exchange discrepancies; the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), the drug trail associated with the gold smuggling; the Income Tax Department, the tax evasions; and the Customs is looking at gold and ‘date’ smuggling and distribution of Koran. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) is coordinating the investigations. The state government had announced a Vigilance inquiry in the Life Mission case but is almost confirmed that the Central Bureau of Investigation will land up. If that happens, the number of Central agencies actively investigating cases in Kerala would be seven.

Party, government in a fix

When it started out, the NIA probe was centered around the chief minister’s office. The party landed in a juice after the ED questioned Bineesh Kodiyeri, son of party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. The NIA is putting two politburo members of the party in a fix.

More to come

K.T. Jaleel has become the first Kerala Minister to be ‘questioned’ by the NIA and the ED. It is said that all conversations that Jaleel had with gold smuggling accused Swapna Suresh was projected on a large screen and the Minister was asked about it. It is reliably known that another Minister who had chat contacts with Swapna will soon be summoned for questioning.

The Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), projected as the magic wand that could usher in development by the state government, is also under ED scrutiny.

The inquiry is based on the fact that KIIFB withdrew Rs.250 crore parked in the now-defunct Yes Bank. The bank’s director, T.S. Vijayan, was soon made KIIFB director, too.

Sole strategy

The state government and the CPI(M) are apparently left with the sole strategy of putting up a ‘persistent defence.’ The CPI(M) has been reluctant to accept the CPI’s stance that the party should switch from defence to an offensive which would explicitly explain the political motives to the public and the electorate. The CPI has been pointing out the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of the investigation. The BJP’s political agenda getting mixed with any investigation could be a given fact for the CPI(M). However, the party has opted not to go on an offensive on this now. Why is that the CPI(M) is muted in its attack on the investigations and the ‘onslaught’ of the central agencies. The obvious answer could be that the sole and last-standing CPI(M) government is in a precarious position, especially in the stranglehold of the Central investigating agencies.

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