Thiruvananthapuram: What the opposition fondly interpreted as a sign of impending challenge to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s leadership of the government and the ruling party ended up in a whimper when finance minister Thomas Isaac, who appeared to lead such a challenge, gave in without a fight.
The minister, who had questioned the mental balance of those who ordered raids at 36 branches of Kerala State Financial Enterprises to unearth irregularities, had created a flutter in political circles as the Vigilance department responsible for such anti-corruption operations is part of the home ministry, which is under the chief minister.
Opposition leaders saw in Isaac’s defiance the sign of a growing disenchantment against Pinarayi Vijayan, whose office has come under a cloud in the investigations into the gold smuggling and housing scandal.
CM’s erstwhile principal secretary M Sivasankar is now in the custody of central investigating agencies as an accused in the twin scams, while his additional private secretary C M Raveendran is set to be questioned any time now.
The alleged involvement of the two key officials is believed to lead the investigations to the chief minister himself. Political circles felt that the shadow of investigations would considerably weaken the position of Vijayan, who is known to brook no dissent.
However, in a clearly articulated rebuttal, the chief minister had on Monday rejected Thomas Isaac’s objections and asserted that the Vigilance raids were part of the standard operating procedure of the agency, dismissing the suggestions that the action may have been initiated at the behest of private players, who had a stake in the failure of KSFE.
The chief minister’s assertion was followed by a statement issued by the state party secretariat on Tuesday, which obliquely criticised the finance minister, but without naming him. The statement claimed that the criticism of the raid in public was the height of indiscretion at the current juncture when the party and the government are facing the local body elections, ahead of the state assembly poll later next year.
The statement pointed out that the development was used by opposition parties to create the impression that there was a rift within the government and the party, greatly aiding the cause of the opposition and showing the LDF government in poor light.
The claim was repeated by at least a couple of ministers, who denounced the finance minister’s stand, saying that Vigilance raids are a routine affair and no office or entity is exempt from supervision by the watchdog.
Taking a cue from the tone of the rebuttal, Thomas Isaac beat a hasty retreat and told newspersons that he did not want to add to the confusion by making any further comments on the issue as it is elections time.
Thus what appeared as an emerging challenge to Kannur, meaning the leadership of the Pinarayi clique, from Alappuzha, which is the turf of Thomas Isaac, and long considered a rival power base, simply petered out.