Thiruvananthapuram: The road ahead for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will now depend largely on the outcome of the ongoing gold smuggling case probe and the Life Mission project as the Centre has started to look into the rule book.
The State has submitted documents of the Life Mission project to the Centre and there are indications that the state failed to obtain necessary clearance, mandatory for sponsorship received in cash or kind from abroad.
Already the three agencies of the Centre – the NIA, Customs and the Enforcement Directorate are probing the case and so far more than a dozen people have been arrested, especially in the gold smuggling case.
The ED has written to the Kerala chief secretary to produce all the documents linked to the Life Mission project.
While Vijayan was breathing easy after the Customs and NIA arrested three prime accused, trouble began after his principal secretary, who was also the IT secretary, M. Sivasankar’s closeness with the gold smuggling case key accused Swapna Suresh became known, forcing Vijayan to first remove him from all posts and as the saga became murkier he later suspended him.
While Vijayan, his party – CPI-M and the ruling Left were trying to blame Sivasankar for all the ills indicating that the buck stopped with him and none else were involved, out came the details of the Life Mission housing project. A commission of Rs 4.25 crore was allegedly paid to Swapna Suresh by the UAE based charity organisation Red Crescent, who were sponsoring the building of a Rs 20 crore housing project in Trissur district, on state government land.
According to the foreign exchange rules, prior permission is required from the Centre as the agency sponsoring this housing project is a charity organisation in the UAE.
Vijayan is in the dock, and Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala has revealed that all that the former said about the Life Mission project has been proven to be a lie.
Vijayan has said that the state government has no role in the housing project of Life Mission, conceived by UAE-based Red Crescent and executed by local company Unitac. Vijayan said all that the government did was to hand over the land and that it had no other role.
However, documents that have now surfaced in the public domain reveal that there was an undue haste on the part of the Kerala government to clear this project as the Law department had only a few hours to give their opinion and the agreement to hand this project to Unitac was given to them.
It has also been revealed that there exist no minutes of the meeting chaired by Vijayan when the agreement was finalised.
State Congress president Mullappally Ramachandran said that Vijayan’s poll promise plank was to set everything right if they were elected to office.
“Today the situation is such that, nothing has been set right and instead the name of Kerala has been shamed as central agencies are on the prowl around the office of Vijayan. It’s a matter of shame that even a housing project for the benefit of the most weakest sections of the society is embroiled as a project where it has turned out to be a commission deal project. Am going to stage a day long fasting protest in front of the State party headquarters on Tuesday, as Vijayan has no moral right to continue,” said Ramachandran.
Meanwhile under all round fire, Vijayan who since last week is in isolation after visiting the accident site at Kozhikode airport, is now not holding his customary Covid review press meets and there has been no official reaction to all the latest revelations in the Life Mission project, though in the past, he on a few occasions, went hammer and tongs against the media for raking baseless points about this housing project.
On Saturday, during talks with his cabinet colleagues, Vijayan asked his Ministers to pull up their socks and get firing on all cylinders to take on the opposition.
According to sources, he has asked all his cabinet colleagues to go to the public to explain all that they have done in their department, to counter the opposition charges.
He has also explained to see that all pending projects are finished before the end of this year, as assembly elections are scheduled for May next year.
Meanwhile popular media critic Joseph C.Mathew, a former advisor to V.S. Achuthanandan when he was the chief minister (2006-11) said that it seems most unlikely that the Vijayan government got the mandatory clearances for getting the sponsorship for this housing project.
“The very fact that there was an undue haste in getting clearances from even the Law department points out that there was something wrong. It has now come out that clearance was obtained in a day and the agreement inked,” said Mathew.
The image of the Vijayan government took a beating when the gold smuggling racket was unearthed after P.S. Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate here, was arrested by the Customs Department on July 5 when he was facilitating the smuggling of 30 kg of gold in the diplomatic baggage to Thiruvananthapuram from Dubai and it has been on a slide ever since.