A political controversy has erupted in Kerala surrounding allegations of payments to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s daughter and her tech company for services not rendered. While the opposition is lying low this time, the CPM, perhaps for the first time, has come out with a statement in support of Veena T, the CM’s daughter.
This is not the first time that Vijayan had to face allegations of corruption and nepotism involving his daughter. Her name had prominently come up during the gold smuggling case and during the time of Covid-19 in connection with hiring of a US-based firm for data collection.
Interestingly, no past communist chief ministers in Kerala or their families had to face such charges while in office or otherwise.
A report appeared in Malayala Manorama early this week referring to certain findings of the Income Tax Department’s Interim Board for Settlement. As per the report, Kochi-based Cochin Minerals and Rutile Limited (CMRL) had allegedly paid Vijayan’s daughter Veena Rs 1.72 crore from 2017-18 to 2019-20 under the pretext of providing software solutions.
The report said this payment was illegal as Veena’s company Exalogic Solutions Private Limited had allegedly not provided any software service to CMRL, be it development or service. But there is no mention about the company getting any preferred treatment from the government in return for the favours provided to the chief minister’s daughter.
It is reported that the company had also paid such payments to some of the prominent opposition leaders too, though the leader of the opposition V D Satheesan had justified such payments as part of donations to political parties. Since names of many of its leaders figure in the list of beneficiaries, opposition parties are planning to petition the central government to initiate investigation into payments to Veena.
However, there is no explanation either from the IT department or the company as to why such a payment was made to Veena without her providing any services to CMRL. Hence the insinuation that the payment must have been paid in lieu of some political benefits in return. Except, there are allegations from some quarters that the name of the owner of the company had once figured in the list of probable Padma Shri recipients from the state recommended by the government.
While CM Pinarayi Vijayan could face investigation under Prevention of Corruption Act 1989, the major question that is floating in the air is: Had Veena been the daughter of an ordinary citizen, would the company have been so generous? No answers for that
Meanwhile in an unusual move, the state CPM secretariat issued a statement in defence of Veena. The secretariat, the highest decision–making body of the party in the state, has pointed out that “politicians’ wards, like anyone else, have every right to indulge in any legitimate work. That is how Veena started a consultancy company. Its activities are transparent. The company itself has admitted that there were no wrongdoings in this regard. It is evident that the chief minister has no links with the issue.”
The CPM leadership alleged that an IT-related matter involving a company is being used to make political gains. Of late the Centre and its numerous agencies have been hunting down political opponents by targeting their families. Such moves were made in Bihar and Telangana too. The conspiracy to drag the chief minister into the matter is evident for all to see.
“The fact that the remarks were made without leading an ear to Veena’s side of the story clearly points to a conspiracy at work here. It is also ironic that such remarks were made in an order that had completely acquitted the company from any further legal proceedings,” the CPM statement said.
It is pertinent to note here that neither Veena nor her father has uttered a word on the issue. And it is alleged that Mohammed Riyas, Veen’s husband who is also the PWD minister in the Pinarayi cabinet, has not included the amount in Veen’s income in his affidavit before the Election Commission.
Even at the height of power during Jyoti Basu’s time in West Bengal, the CPM had not come out with an official statement defending his son Chandan in connection with a biscuit factory he had set up in the 1980s. In the case of Pinarayi Vijayan , even the central leadership of the CPM evades reporters when questions about charges of corruption against its chief minister in Kerala are raised. While in Kerala, when reporters ask for reactions on anything related to the state, party general secretary Sitarm Yechury’s standard comment is that ‘Don’t you have any questions to ask regarding happenings elsewhere in India?’ And when reports question him in Delhi, he tells them to ask the Kerala leadership. It is clear that even the central leadership is afraid to question Vijayan’s hegemony over the party. Some say, it is the power of the purse strings, since Kerala is the only state where the CPM is in power.
During the last seven years, the opposition has raised a minimum of half a dozen allegations involving the chief minister’s office, his family and close relatives, most notably his daughter Veena. Among the cases, the most infamous is the gold smuggling through diplomatic channels in 2019 in which the CM’s then principal secretary M Sivasankar was allegedly involved.
Pinarayi Vijayan then invited central agencies to probe into the case saying his government had nothing to hide, but changed tack once the agencies spread their tentacles investigating a slew of cases involving Sivasnakar and the coterie he had built around the safe haven of CMO.
The central agencies have mysteriously cooled their heels halfway through investigations, though Sivasanakr is serving a jail term for his involvement in another case. Interestingly, Pinarayi Vijayan government had set up a commission of inquiry headed by a former HC judge to probe into the validity of investigations conducted by the central agencies.
Kerala voted Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Front for a historic second term in 2021 ending a four- decade- old practice of changing government every five years. The CPM duly credited its victory to people’s rejection of corruption allegations against the government and endorsement of its developmental policies. Every criticism is now brushed aside with the remark “We have the people’s mandate” by the government and by those who sing paeans in support of the chief minister.
Any corruption charges against Pinarayi Vijayan, is termed a figment of imagination of a desperate opposition, a creation of the media, anti-Kerala, anti-development and above all a conspiracy to tarnish the image of the strongman. He is ‘Karanabhoothan’ (someone who is responsible for everything that exists in the universe, in this case Kerala) to a large number of Malayalis, home and worldwide, who believe in the brand of Marxism practised by Vijayan and company.
In such a scenario, it is anybody’s guess as to whether the state vigilance or Lokayukta would initiate an inquiry into the deal on their own. All the more when it is a matter concerning the daughter of ‘Karanabhoothan’ himself! 11/08/2023