As the tussle between the Director of Agriculture Biju Prabhakar and Principal Secretary of Agriculture Raju Narayana Swamy, erupted into public attention, the opposition on Wednesday raised the issue in the state assembly.
Congress MLA VD Satheesan moved an adjournment motion in the assembly, to discuss how the public spat between two officials of the Agriculture department has jeopardized the functioning of the department.
Accusing the government of failing to iron out issues between officials, VD Satheesan's speech took an unexpected turn, when he proceeded to raise allegations against Gita Gopinath's father. Gita, a Harvard professor, was appointed as the financial advisor to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in July last year.
The Congress MLA alleged that Gopinath's company was one of the major suppliers of vegetables to Horticorp and that while other suppliers do not get paid on time, the government is only enthusiastic in paying Gopinath's dues.
"The CM and the Minister (Agriculture Minister VS Sunil Kumar) is claiming that the fight between Biju Prabhakar and Raju Narayana Swamy has not affected the functioning of the Agriculture department. But this is not so," MLA Satheesan said.
He said that when minister visited a district godown in the state on May 7, he took immediate action upon finding that the vegetables came from Tamil Nadu and that they were not healthy to consume.
"Immediately acting on the information, the minister suspended Horticorp MD and two other senior officials. And said that this is how the previous government used to procure vegetables and promised action against it. I tried reaching minister Sunil Kumar on phone, to congratulate him. Even the Horticorp does not want these poisonous vegetables. But the story turned out to be entirely different," MLA Satheesan said.
The MLA then went on to allege that these veggies came from the company owned by Gopinath.
Speaking about a news report telecast by Malayalam TV news channel News 18, that revealed that Horticorp bought most of its vegetables from a Mysuru-based company Raithamitra owned by Gopinath, Satheesan went on to attack the government.
"When this news story came out, the minister assured that action will be taken and a report will be submitted. How many days has it been? Have any of you received a report on this? Finance wing had submitted a report on the matter, but it is stuck in red tape. This is what happens in the departments. The government is paying Gopinath on time, but look at the plight of Vattavada vegetable society. There is surplus vegetables, but the government has not paid them in the last six-eight months," MLA Satheesan alleged.
However, the assembly was disrupted and the opposition staged a walkout, when speaker Sreeramakrishnan pointed out that MLA Satheesan was deviating from his topic. The speaker reminded the MLA that he had moved the adjournment motion to discuss the fight between the two IAS officers and not to discuss corruption in the agriculture department.
To this, MLA Satheesan retorted that he was not raising corruption allegations, but was only substantiating his argument that the public spat has affected the functioning of the department. After protesting at the well of the house, the opposition staged a walkout.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the issue was one that could be easily sorted out by the concerned minister.
"The issue between the two officers is purely personal and it has not affected the day-to-day activities of the department. Some vested interests are deliberately trying to create issues," the CM said.