Former IAS officer, C.V. Ananda Bose has reportedly informed the ‘competent authority’ that the state BJP leadership should go lock, stock and barrel.


New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party in Kerala is on a slippery ground. Ever since the Assembly elections, the party is finding it hard to come up with convincing explanations on allegations of money laundering levelled against its “firebrand” president K. Surendran. Surendran is at the centre of a controversy resulting from a highway robbery involving hawala money and subsequent charges that the money was used for pay-off purposes preceding elections. Fresh evidence, or supposed ones, on the charges have been surfacing frequently, the last one being transporting Rs 25 lakh in cash tucked away in a cloth bag used by temple pujaris and covered with coconuts and flowers.

Amidst opposition Congress’s charges that the ruling Left Front is going soft on the hawala case, the Kerala Police on Friday went to Surendran’s house in Kozhikode and handed him a notice to appear before them for questioning at the Police Club in Thrissur on Tuesday. This is in connection with its probe into the highway robbery of Rs 3.50 crore in Kodakara in Thrissur district three days ahead of the Assembly polls. Several BJP leaders in Thrissur district, party’s state general secretary (organisation) M. Ganeshan, Surendran’s office secretary and driver have earlier been questioned. The case was registered on a complaint filed by the driver of the car after four days of the heist.

According to the driver, the looted Rs 25 lakh belonged to a Kozhikode-based RSS worker and the amount was being taken to Kochi for “business purpose”.

Later the “owner” of the looted money came forward claiming that the amount was in fact Rs 3.50 crore. The police claim to have recovered over Rs 1.20 crore from those arrested. The RSS worker later moved a court in Thrissur seeking a direction to police to hand him over the recovered money. However, in a counter-affidavit, the police claimed that the money was “part of BJP’s election fund” and was meant to be distributed in central Kerala. The police also claimed that top BJP leaders were in the “know of things”.

The BJP has squarely charged the ruling CPM of using its power to tarnish the image of the party and its president in the state. “The BJP will not allow Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the ruling Left Front to hunt down Surendran,” the party has said in a Facebook post. Surendran, meanwhile, is unlikely to appear for questioning.

But what has been more damaging to the party was the allegation by an alliance leader in the state that her party chief had demanded Rs 10 crore from Surendran to return to the NDA fold before the Assembly elections and had obtained a minimum of Rs 10 lakh. What lent the allegation some credence is the fact that the politician concerned, C.K. Janu, a highly popular tribal leader of the state, who is heading the Janadhipathya Rashtriya Sabha (JRS), had indeed returned to the NDA fold just before the elections and contested from Sultanbatheri in Wayanad, a hitherto “discarded” district predominantly inhabited by tribals. That the district got national attention after Rahul Gandhi successfully contested from there to the Lok Sabha has not helped in improving the living conditions of the people there is another story. The allegation has been levelled by JRS treasurer Praseetha Azhikode, a former close associate of Janu. It is once again Praseetha who has raised fresh charges of transferring Rs 25 lakh camouflaged as puja materials. She is said to be working at the behest of senior CPM leader from Kannur, P. Jayarajan.

It is an irony that exactly a year ago, the same leaders of the BJP who are now in the dock had been the most vocal about various Central agencies probing the now infamous gold smuggling racket involving the then Principal Secretary of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. They had been predicting the “imminent arrest” of the culprits. But nothing of that sort happened. Vijayan, who had claimed that the “investigations by Central agencies were on the right track” turned plate only when the agencies ventured to zero in on his party aides. From then on the investigations became “politically motivated”, which, in hindsight, seems to be true, since no one, not even the BJP people, now talks about it. The people of the state, meanwhile, had even denied BJP its lone representation in the state Assembly.

Curiously, the Congress is seeing a clandestine understanding between the CPM and BJP. Congress leaders refer to the ongoing police investigation against Surendran as a “circus stunt”.

According to the party, nothing will happen either to Pinarayi Vijayan or Surendran as long as the CPM is in power in the state and BJP at the Centre. There may be some truth in it going by the track record of CBI not placing relevant documents in the Supreme Court in the SNC-Lavalin pay-off scandal involving Chief Minister Vijayan. The Central agency has so far sought time for a record 26th time.

Political quid pro quo or not, the state BJP leadership is in trouble if one goes by reports on the findings of one of the eminent persons asked by the “competent authority” in Delhi to look into the “mess” in the party set-up in the state.

Former IAS officer, C.V. Ananda Bose has reportedly informed the “competent authority”, a euphemism for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that the state BJP leadership should go lock, stock and barrel. If this is true, then Surendran and company can start packing up, but then what happens to the party? Right now the party’s state leadership is a discredited lot and BJP stock is down in the minds of the people. Perhaps only the Prime Minister can save the party in the state.