After a lull, the ruling Left Front in Kerala finds itself in a political soup in more than one way. Its Janajagrata Yatra, to counter BJP’s just concluded Janaraksha Yatra, has run into trouble days after it took off, one from the north and one from the south, respectively led by state secretaries of CPM and CPI, two major constituents of the Front. Its all-powerful Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is openly backing one of his ministers, money-loaded businessman transport minister Thomas Chandy, owner of a swanky resort in Alappuzha backwaters, accused of flouting wetland rules. The district collector, who has submitted a report indicting Chandy for his misdeeds, is facing imminent punishment transfer for “misleading the government”. The government is moving high court against a CBI probe into the killings of seven BJP-RSS workers after the Left Front assumed power in May last year. K.P. Mahija, mother of the private engineering college student Jishnu Prannoy, who was found dead in his hostel room last January, has moved the Supreme Court seeking justice, which was promised to her but subsequently denied by the very same Left Front government. Mahija and her family, strong supporters of CPM, had gone on a hunger strike, rousing the conscience of an entire state. It was called off following false promises by the CPM leadership, including the Chief Minister. A prominent advocate, who brokered peace for the government at the time, C.P. Udayabhanu today stands accused in the murder of a real estate dealer. If such is the track record of a government, led by a self-proclaimed pro-working class revolutionary party CPM, in just over one-and-a half-year rule, people wonder what forebodes the state in the rest of five years. It is something worth pondering about.
CPM Politburo member and state party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who is leading the jaatha from the north, while getting into the car of a well-known hawala accused in Kozhikode’s Koduvally town, was actually stepping into a controversy that has embarrassed party leadership. BJP state secretary K. Surendran first posted this on Facebook, only to be taken up by Muslim League and Congress very soon. The open Mini Cooper car belonged to Karat Faizal, known smuggler in the area, who happens to be the younger brother of CPM-backed legislator of Koduvally, Karat Razak. Though Kodiyeri now feigns ignorance, there are few takers for it. “I didn’t know the car belonged to a smuggler. The party will look into whether there was any lapse,” said an irritated Kodiyeri. It is unlikely that a party tightly controlled by Kodiyeri and coterie will look into his lapses. Everybody knows the fate of the party inquiry into the ghastly murder of rebel CPM leader, T.P. Chandrashekharan. There are allegations that the mafia has been an integral part of CPM ever since the current Kannur lobby took control of the party. The party’s association with lottery kingpin Santiago Martin and his Rs 2-crore financial aid to party organ Deshabhimani had at one time hit the headlines, forcing party heavyweight E.P. Jayarajan to quit as general manager. Then, V.S. Achthandandan who questioned the party’s dealings with such characters, was silenced. He had criticised the party-controlled television channel for airing an interview with entrepreneur Pharis Abubacker. He had to pay the price for terming Abubacker a “hated” person. Then in 2013, the party drew much flak for carrying a front page advertisement in Deshabhimani by another controversial industrialist, V.M. Radhakrishnan, hailing comrades attending the party plenum in Palakkad at the time. The one-time chairman of the state-owned ailing Malabar Cements—who is better known as “Chakku” Radhakrishnan for his alleged involvement in illegal trading in jute bags—is facing multiple charges, including abetment to suicide of a whistleblower employee of the company. Incidentally, that particular plenum was discussing the “influence of mafia and big business and how the party should guard against falling prey to such forces”. Much water has flown down the Bharathappuzha since then, and CPM’s bond with the mafia has only strengthened over the years.
NRI businessman and NCP leader Thomas Chandy took over as Transport Minister in April this year after A.K. Saseendran was forced to resign, following alleged lewd talks over the phone with a TV reporter. His profile is interesting. With declared assets worth Rs 92.34 crore, Chandy is the richest legislator in the state Assembly. He own schools in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and so has earned the sobriquet Kuwait Chandy, though his financial track record in those countries are not worth mentioning. He is the owner director of Water World Tourism Company, which runs the controversial Lake Palace Resort, for which he is accused of encroachment and levelling of water bodies in violation of wetland rules. When the allegations were raised two months ago for the first time in the Assembly, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan brushed them aside as “politically motivated”. Chandy too offered to quit if proved guilty. As the charges against the minister gathered steam, the government asked the district collector to submit a fact-finding report. In the meantime, reports about vital files regarding the property missing from the local panchayat office came to light. Despite all objections raised by Chandy and his cohorts, the district collector filed her report, finding irregularities and violation of rules. It is this report which the government and CPM state secretary say is “wrong”. This they have done by overruling objections raised by the Revenue Minister, who belongs to CPI. As things stand, many within the CPM agree that the controversial land will be allocated to Chandy soon in the name of development. It is clear that things are being set “right” by the Left Front government in Kerala.