The CPM in Kerala may have wriggled out of an embarrassing situation by raising the bogey of “political conspiracy”, but it is increasingly becoming clear that the “proletarian” party is no different from those “bourgeois” ones. How else will one explain the allegations of financial irregularities in Dubai by the son of party’s Kerala state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan that rocked the state this week?
It all started with the leakage of a complaint received by the CPM central leadership from a UAE businessman, alleging that the party’s Politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s elder son defaulted in repayment of Rs 13 crore. In the complaint, Hasan Ismaeel Abdulla Almarzooqi, owner of Dubai-based Jaas Tourism LLC, claimed that “there are over five criminal cases registered against Benoy Vinodini Balakrishnan in Dubai by Dubai Police and public prosecution so far”. The complainant sought “Indian government officials’ assistance for registering a formal complaint to arrest and extradite” Benoy, a “business partner” in Solv Management Consultancy FZE, a firm in Dubai. Almarzooqi has said that Binoy “absconded from Dubai after cheating my company and my partner”.
Though initially the party tried to brush it aside as “fake news that has nothing to do with CPM”, party organ Deshabhimani launched a virulent attack against those, mainly the media, who are “indulging in malicious propaganda to discredit the party and its secretary”. Kodiyeri, on his part, defended Benoy’s “innocence”, but said his son would clear all the “misgivings” soon. But by second day the party changed its stand and called a meeting of the state secretariat to discuss the matter. Later in a statement the party said, “If at all there is any dispute between two parties over a financial dealing, using it as a stick to beat the party is a political conspiracy.”
The statement further said Binoy has been in Dubai since 2003. “The allegations raised against CPM and Balakrishnan are baseless…Neither the state government nor the CPM can do anything in a financial deal which is said to have taken place in a foreign country. It is with mala fide intention that media are conducing debates over the issue after covering up facts. Benoy is not facing any case in India over any financial deal. Benoy himself has made clear that no case is pending against him in Dubai and there is no ban on travelling to Dubai. No media could furnish any document to prove otherwise.”
The party is silent on charges raised against the son of the party MLA from Chavara in Kollam, and a close friend of Kodiyeri’s son, who is facing the allegation of defrauding Rs 10 crore from the same company. It is also silent on the fact that Kodiyeri Balakrishnan was minister for tourism in Kerala when his son floated the management consultancy in Dubai. Balakrishnan is also silent on his innumerable visits to Gulf countries on and off. However, it is an open secret that these “proletarian” leaders take part in dinners there hosted by fellow Malayalis, where entry fee costs nothing less than Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000. “Many business deals are done there,” claimed a journeyman wryly.
The allegations have given way to suspicion and mistrust, with the official faction terming it a calculated move to discredit the state unit and to revive infighting within the party. They even see the central leadership’s hand in it since the letter of complaint now in the open was originally submitted to the politburo. It is said that the general secretary had then passed on the letter to Kodiyeri, asking him to sort out the issue. It is this letter which has now reached vernacular newspaper and channel offices. Obviously, this was an insider job, say those who feel aggrieved.
At the height of the power struggle within the state party between veteran V.S. Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan, there were instances of such leaks and most of the time it was attributed to those loyal to VS. And many were systematically thrown out or sidelined by the official leadership. Such a scenario has emerged now, the ominous difference being this time the finger of suspicion is pointed to someone close to the party general secretary. It is an open secret that the Kerala leadership is at daggers drawn with Sitaram Yechury.
However, there is another section, mainly old timers made irrelevant, which sees this as an opportunity to “expose” the underbelly of the party. This section points out that the current leadership’s association with money bags and their business interests are in blatant violation of the party’s ideological stance. This began with the party giving Assembly and Lok Sabha tickets to those outside the party, or supporting those who had nothing to do with Marxist ideology. There were instances in the recent past, of late that of former minister Thomas Chandy, where the party had to bend backwards in their defence. Those who dared to question the official line are usually branded as working against “party interests”. One leader had even famously said that the days of a starving communist were over. “It is time for biriyani and Coca Cola,” he had reportedly said.
This is not the first time that Kodiyeri’s sons’ names have cropped up in cases of questionable activities. His second son, Bineesh Kodiyeri was in the news for all the wrong reasons, including for being party to alleged sex rackets; and last when he was appointed vice-president of a company owned by UAE-based industrialist Ravi Pillai. Subsequently, many uncomfortable questions were raised when Pillai was handed over the rights to state-owned Kovalam Palace on a platter.