Thiruvananthapuram: The ruling left front, which used the strategy of browbeating central investigating agencies for poking into the affairs of the Pinarayi government, has applied the same technique to the state government’s own Vigilance department for unearthing irregularities in the government-owned Kerala State Financial Enterprises (KSFE).
The Vigilance department, under the home ministry, raided about three dozen offices of KSFE and unearthed grave irregularities in the conduct of chit funds and the possibility of using the chits for converting black money into white.
Finance minister Thomas Isaac, under whose department KSFE comes, launched a frontal attack against the Vigilance department, saying that it has no business to go into the objected aspects of the company’s working.
Thomas Isaac had similarly questioned the action of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) when the constitutional entity found serious violations by KIIFB, another corporate body under the finance ministry.
He even questioned the mental faculty of those who ordered the raids, surprising political observers as the Vigilance department is part of the home ministry which is held by the chief minister. He was joined by senior party leaders, who questioned the intention of Vigilance, which, according to them, is supposed to safeguard the interests of the state government.
Stung by the criticism, the Vigilance department has apparently decided to go slow on the follow-up action and has even refrained from issuing a press note on the raids, which is a normal practice in such cases.
The development has even been interpreted by observers as a sign of growing rift in the party and a subtle move against chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala claimed that it is the sign of a developing confrontation between the chief minister and his detractors.
There have been jarring notes in the reaction of some of the senior leaders about the amendments to the Police Act giving blanket powers to the police, which the state government was forced to roll back in the face of widespread condemnation.
The central leadership of the party was very unhappy with the move by the chief minister, which was initiated without proper discussions in the party. Pinarayi had to beat a quick retreat after party general secretary Sitaram Yechuri announced in Delhi that the offending amendment would be withdrawn.
The raid at KSFE offices is cited as another instance, where Pinarayi’s home ministry may have erred in its judgment, according to a section of the party, which alleges that the raids were conducted at the behest of private players to discredit the government corporation.
But BJP leaders claimed that the raids were conducted in the wake of complaints by a leading benami businessman, who is believed to be close to the chief minister, and that the raids were not as innocent as they appeared to be.
The issue is now expected to come up before the party for a detailed review even as the finance minister and others have shown no sign of softening their criticism of Vigilance for what they consider as the height of indiscretion by the anti-corruption agency.