With the CPI (M) already fighting allegations of being pro-rich, it now has to battle the controversy surrounding State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s family.
The claims of financial fraud against Binoy Kodiyeri by a Dubai-based company is just the latest in the series of serious allegations levelled against the Kerala CPI (M) after it has come back to power in Kerala.
The handover of Kovalam Palace to industrialist Ravi Pillai, the land encroachment complaint against former minister and Nationalist Congress Party MLA Thomas Chandy, the check dam controversy involving MLA PV Anvar – these are just some of the serious issues the CPI (M) government has faced of late.
Now, the Opposition has already latched on to the Binoy Kodiyeri scandal. It has launched a tirade against the business interests of Kodiyeri’s family and has asked him step down from the Politburo.
With the chorus against him increasing in pitch, Kodiyeri has distanced himself from the controversy and told the media his son would deal with the case, in which a Dubai-based firm has accused Binoy of cheating them of Rs 13 crore.
Earlier, Binoy tried to play down the issue, saying that an old case had been pulled out and was now being used against his family. However, Kodiyeri, after a lengthy discussion with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, tossed the ball back to Binoy’s court and refused to bail him out.
According to a complaint lodged by Hasan Ismaeel Abdulla Almarzooqi, a UAE citizen and owner of JAAS Tourism LLC in Dubai, Binoy Kodiyeri (Binoy Vinodini Balakrishnan as per official records), cheated his company to the tune of Rs 13 crore and has been absconding from Dubai.
Binoy had first borrowed Rs 53.61 lakh to purchase an Audi car and later Rs 7.7 crore to investment in his businesses in India, Nepal, UAE and Saudi Arabia. He stopped repaying the EMI and left UAE, alleged the complainant in a letter to the Indian government. The letter also claims that Binoy has a number of criminal cases filed against him in the UAE and that he borrowed money from others too, but didn’t repay them.
The complainant is said to have contacted the CPI (M) central leadership, seeking their intervention to get the money back. The company has also allegedly threatened to approach the Interpol to issue a red warrant against Binoy, who left Dubai about a year back. Some senior CPI (M) leaders, according to sources, tried to pacify the complainant and stop him from approaching the media.
This is not the first time Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s family has found itself embroiled in controversy. His younger son, Bineesh, too has also seen several allegations levelled against him. His photograph with an alleged Russian sex worker surfaced during a sting operation, his friendship with Om Prakash – accused in the Paul Muthoot murder – and his business interests have proved to be a headache to the party, especially to the all-powerful Kannur lobby.
Kodiyeri, former Home Minister for the state, himself caused much embarrassment to the party recently due to his love for posh cars. During his Jan Raksha Yatra at Koduvalli recently, he travelled in a Mini Cooper, allegedly owned by an accused in a gold smuggling case.
He, however, managed to tide through these controversies and held on to his position in the party. Insiders have said that despite his family’s dubious connections and business interests, the party tends to turn a blind eye to his activities and he continues being a powerhouse.
Kodiyeri isn’t the only one in the party to find himself in the eye of the storm. EP Jayarajan, a party heavyweight from Kannur, found himself in a similar controversy when he travelled in a Land Rover to attend a Karshaga Sangam meeting in Kottayam in 2013.
“Earlier, our leaders used to lead simple lifestyles and were rooted to communist ideologies. Now, they revel in luxury and their families build business empires. Just a look at the luxury vehicles purchased by the government shows their inclination towards leading a posh lifestyle. It is no longer a pro-working class CPI (M), it is a pro-rich CPI (M),” says a leader from Kozhikode, associated with the party for several years, his voice heavy with disappointment.
In 2015, former minister Elamaram Kareem, who was also a member of the CPI (M) Central Committee, was accused of giving mining contracts to rich businessmen in the state in the ecologically sensitive areas of Malabar. His, according to many party comrades in Kozhikode, was a rag to riches story and an example of what a CPI (M) leader should not be. “Kareem started off as a casual labourer at Mavoor Gwalior Rayons factory and, after attaining a position in party, became rich. He was always accused of having connections with rich businessmen in the state and abroad,” a party member from Kozhikode says.
When Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan travels outside his office, the roads are blocked and only his entourage, which seems to contain one too many vehicles, is allowed to zip through the streets at top speed. “It is just an exhibition of power and safety concerns are just an excuse. A leader, who once boasted of walking through RSS cadres who were flashing knives at him, need not fear to travel among his voters. Nayanar, former Chief Minister, travelled without pilots or escorts on our roads. We may not have such CPI (M) leaders in the future,” another party worker says.
Kanam Rajendran, a CPI MLA, who has collided with the CPI (M) several times following the Thomas Chandy controversy, however, has not raised accusations against the CPI (M) leadership in the Binoy Kodiyeri issue. “It is their party issue and they will have to handle it. The issue is not going to affect LDF anyway,” Kanam told media persons.
CPI (M) will have to pay a heavy price if it continues to act like a pro-rich party, especially because its major vote bank continues to be the working class. Voters threw out the Congress-led United Democratic Front from power following the never-ending corruption cases against its ministers, and the Left Democratic Front too seems to be treading this path.