In a double whammy for the ruling CPI-M and the Pinarayi Vijayan government, the chief minister’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar was left answering uncomfortable questions in the custody of Enforcement Directorate (ED) about his use of the CM’s office for gold smuggling while Bineesh Kodiyeri, the son of party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishanan, was cooling his heels in a Bengaluru police lock-up in connection with a drug peddling case.
While answering questions, Sivasankar had admitted to having called the Customs for the release of detained gold contraband, puncturing the defence put up by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his party all along that the CM’s office had nothing to do with the clandestine operation.
The chief minister had been using a brief ‘no’ from a Customs official when newsmen asked if anybody had called from the CM’s office for the release of the detained packet. But the ED arrest order for Sivasankar states that the former principal secretary had admitted to having called senior Customs officials a number of times to secure the release of the smuggled gold.
Leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala has described the predicament of the ruling party as the arrest of the party and the government. He claimed that Cliff House, the official residence of the CM, had become the headquarters of smugglers and the party secretary’s house a hub for drug peddling.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan sought to deflect the criticism by insisting during his media briefing that the government had no responsibility for what his former principal secretary has done in his capacity as a Kerala cadre IAS official. He avoided any reference to Bineesh Kodiyeri’s arrest.
The CPI-M embarrassment was palpable when Left Democratic Front convenor Vijayaraghavan claimed that the party was not responsible for what the party secretary’s son was doing. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had earlier said that if his son had done any wrong, he should face the consequences and that he would not get any protection from himself or the party.
The CPI-M central leadership echoed the same sentiment, saying that the law should take its course and that the party was not responsible for the conduct of the relatives of party leaders. But the stand ran counter to a party doctrine adopted at one of its national sessions which prescribed a model behaviour for the relatives of party leaders.
Minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan teased the CPI-M, saying that the party had the ignominy of communist ideals not appealing to even the immediate members of the leaders’ families.