The Congress and the BJP on Wednesday came down heavily on Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and demanded a probe against Minister of Higher Education KT Jaleel after his name surfaced in connection to the gold smuggling case that has come to light in the state.
Pointing out that Jaleel had spoken to Swapna Suresh, one of the accused in the case, over the phone, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala alleged that the Chief Minister was 'protecting' him.
Jaleel had earlier clarified that he had spoken to Swapna after getting a direction from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate, to discuss distribution of food kits during the month of Ramzan.
He had shared a screenshot of his WhatsApp chat with acting Consular General Rashed Khasmi Ali Musaiqri Al Ashmia to the media. In the chat, the Consular General can be seen telling Jaleel that Swapna would coordinate with him, regarding food kits.
BJP state president K Surendran also criticised the government, and alleged that Jaleel was involved in the case.
"Why did the Minister's private secretary call Sarith (another accused in the case). How can we be sure that it was not the Minister who spoke to Sarith? I have doubts whether they exchanged food kits or gold kits. There is no clarity in Jaleel's statement," Surendran alleged.
Meanwhile, Ramesh Chennithala also criticised Pinarayi Vijayan for not suspending former Information Technology Secretary M Sivasankar over allegations that he was close to PS Sarith and Swapna Suresh.
Sivasankar was questioned by customs officials on Wednesday for almost 10 hours. As per reports, he told investigation officials that he just had a friendship with Sarith and Swapna and was not involved in the smuggling in any way.
"The Secretary had a close relationship with the accused. Records have proven that they spoke over the phone for a long time. What other evidence does the Chief Minister need?" Chennithala asked.
Chennithala on Wednesday also alleged that the state’s IT ministry was giving jobs to “whoever they wanted, through back doors.”
"Many people were appointed as staff members in the department. A United States citizen was among them. People in Public Service Commission (PSC) lists are waiting and there are a lot of people who are unemployed, but here, the government is appointing those close to them,” Chennithala further alleged.
On Tuesday, the Chief Minister told the media that an enquiry by the Chief Secretary and Finance Secretary over Sivasankar's involvement in the case is ongoing. "If any irregularity is found as part of the enquiry, appropriate action will be taken," the Chief Minister said.