Widespread protests rocked the state of Kerala throughout Saturday as opposition party members took to the streets demanding the resignation of Minister KT Jaleel after he was questioned in connection with the gold smuggling case. The Minister for Higher Education was on Friday quizzed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with an alleged Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) violation. It has been alleged that he accepted consignments of the Quran brought from UAE through diplomatic channels, in violation of FCRA norms, and his statement was recorded by the ED in connection with the same.
Despite the heavy downpour at many places, the Youth Congress, Yuva Morcha, BJP, Congress and the Youth League staged protests in various places, including Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Malappuram, Idukki and Kottayam, demanding the minister's resignation. In many places including Thiruvananthapuram, the protests turned violent as the police had to resort to batons, water cannons and tear gas.
In the state capital, protesters tried to barge into the Secretariat, following which police lathicharged them, due to which a few protesters were injured. The protesters also marched to Jaleel's house in Malappuram but were stopped by police some distance away.
The alleged FCRA violation emerged after the Ministerâ€™s name surfaced in connection with Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the Kerala gold smuggling case. It was following this that the Minister said that she was contacted on the direction of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, in connection with gifts distributed from the consulate as part of Ramadan.
The Minister had earlier admitted that the consignment containing the Quran had been received from the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, which a top Customs official had referred to as "a prima facie violation of FCRA" (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act).
Demand for resignation politically motivated: CPI(M)
Meanwhile, the CPI(M) State Secretariat, which met on Saturday, said in a statement that it was "unnatural" that the Enforcement Directorate head had himself revealed in Delhi on Friday that it had sought information from Jaleel.
"There is an allegation that ED is an agency that is being politically used,â€ť it said. The party also described the resignation demanded by Congress and BJP to be "politically motivated."
CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury told reporters in Delhi that the agitation by the opposition was in view of the upcoming Assembly elections.
"The main opposition UDF, led by the Congress and the BJP, which is interested in destabilising all non-BJP ruled governments in the country, is doing this campaign. The state government and the party has made it very clear that action will be taken against wrong-doers," he said.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala lashed out at Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and said he was protecting the Minister.
"The Chief Minister has been protecting the Minister. Not only Jaleel, the whole ministry is a disgrace to the state. This ministry is a liability to the state," he alleged.
However, the CPI(M) said the opposition United Democratic Front was trying to shift the attention from Rs 150 crore jewellery scam case where Muslim League MLA MC Kammruddin is an accused.
"The UDF is trying to shift the attention from its MLA's multi-crore scam. Just because ED sought an explanation from the minister, the Congress and the BJP are seeking the resignation of the minister. This just proved that Congress is the B-team of the BJP. The same Congress had earlier alleged that the BJP was politically using the ED," the CPI(M) statement said.
The party also listed out the instances in which the Congress leaders were grilled by the ED in recent past and that P Chidambaram and DK Sivakumar were arrested by the Directorate.
"Rajasthan transport minister Prathap Singh Kacharyavasan was questioned by ED for seven hours in August. Seems like the Congress leadership in Kerala is unaware of it. The brother of the Rajasthan Chief Minister was raided recently," the party said.
The BJP observed a "black day" in the state on Saturday to protest the police action against its activists on Friday night during demonstrations.