Keralas secret keeper Biju Ramesh whistle blower or blackmailerAll pics by Aman S Dominic
news Friday, October 23, 2015 - 13:53


Right across the famous Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala’s capital city of Thiruvananthapuram is the headquarters of the Rajdhani group of Institutions. On the first floor office of the building, sits 50-year-old Biju Ramesh, flanked by pictures of gods, lamps and a figurine of Sree Narayana Guru. His surroundings are a far cry from what he is famous for. Ramesh is a bar-owner and better known as the whistle-blower in the Kerala bar scam.

Known to embrace controversies, Ramesh is a busy man once again with interviews slated on a daily basis, after his revelations concerning the mysterious death of Sivagiri mutt chief Swami Saswathikananda 13 years ago.

Ramesh owns 14 star hotels, educational institutions, engineering companies, real estate business and liquor bars, which is hardly surprising given that business runs in the family.

Old Thiruvananthapuram locals remember his father ‘contractor Ramesan’ as a good businessman and a true follower of Sree Narayana Guru. 

“My father followed the principles of Guru and never wanted me to start a liquor business. He always told me not to do it. But since childhood I had a passion for food. My hobby was to cook and that’s how I entered into the hotel business,” Rameshsays.

“Since all my ventures were star hotels, liquor was a must to survive in the business,” he explains.

Marrying the daughter of E K Chandrasenan, an arrack businessman and a prime accused in the hooch deaths of 1982, further strengthened Biju Ramesh’s liquor business.

“I had to look after my father-in-law’s liquor business too. My father was against the marriage precisely due to the liquor connection. After marriage he told me to let them do whatever business they want to and I should not involve in it,” he adds.

Sree Narayana Guru was a strong voice against alcohol. ‘Liquor is poison, make it not, sell it not, drink it not’ was the Guru’s motto.

Ironically, Biju Ramesh and his nemesis Vellapally Natesan who leads the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, struck gold with liquor.

“Sometimes I used to feel guilty that I am not able to follow father and Guru’s principles,” Ramesh adds sheepishly.

The irony does not end there. Ramesh, working president of Kerala Bar Hotel Owners’ Association, prefers not to be called an abkari. Ramesh says he is not an abkari, as all his liquor business was just a part of his star hotels.

“Most of my hotels are 5 star, so liquor is just served in my hotels that’s all and I don’t do liquor business alone, more than that my business are in other firms,” he says.

With the money made though the hotel and liquor businesses, Ramesh has set up many educational institutions in the state.

“I can assure that no educational institutions in Kerala provide these world class facilities for such low fees, you can check,” he adds.

Ramesh’s allegations that Finance Minister KM Mani took bribes from bar owners to re-open closed bars have resulted in a vigilance probe against the veteran politician. Meanwhile, the Kerala Home Minister has asked the police to submit a report on Swami Saswatikananda’s death following Ramesh’s allegations that Vellapally Natesan had killed the seer.

Though he has taken on powerful people, Ramesh has been accused of being a blackmailer, though carefully projecting himself as a conscientious whistle-blower. 

“How can I be called a blackmailer? I did not get anything in return for the information I told publicly. If blackmailing was my intention, I could have kept all the evidence with me and taken money. In fact, I did some audio recordings only after the controversies started, I don’t even have the earlier ones,” he says.

However, the question arises, If Mani taking a bribe was a crime, aren’t Biju Ramesh and other bar owners complicit in the same crime?

“I am against corruption, but when association of bar owners collectively decided to pay bribe, it was not possible for me to stand away. In most cities we have seen hafta collection. No trader gives it willingly, but that’s the peril when you work within a system. Everyone is forced to give it,” Ramesh tries to explain.

“But when Mani did not do anything even after taking our money, I was forced to reveal everything.”

Raking up the issue of Swamy Saswathikananda’s death after 13 years too has made many suspicious of BijuRamesh’s intentions. Ramesh insists that this was not his fault as he had spoken about it many times in the past, but the media covered it only now.

“I have given many complaints seeking proper investigation into the swami’s death. We had conducted many sit-in protests in front of the Secretariat in 2009 and 2010. In 2013, a prominent channel in Kerala came to me and did a full story on the issue. I gave them many evidences, they interviewed others, but finally that story was killed,” he alleges.

According to Ramesh, the issue got media attention now as he had become a ‘recognisable’ face after the bar scam revelations.

Biju Ramesh is a part of Sree Narayana Dharmavedi, another Ezhava organization headed by businessman Gokulam Gopalan. The group’s plan of aligning with the BJP seems to have hit a roadblock with Vellapally Natesan usurping the opportunity. Many political analysts in Kerala believe that Biju Ramesh’s latest attack was at times to embarrass the SNDP and confuse the BJP.

“I am an activist of Dharmavedi since my teenage days, we never aimed at a political alliance with BJP, because the organization is in no way linked to politics,” was Biju Ramesh’s denial.

“I had campaigned for O Rajagopal in Thiruvananthapuram, I like the PM and his ideologies. We had many Congress union ministers from Kerala but nobody brought any development to the state. So I believed Rajagopal would be able to do that,” he says.

He however warns that the BJP would regret a tie-up with the SNDP.

“Vellappally Natesan is a complete fraud and if BJP has any plans for an alliance, they will bear the consequences of joining hands with a burglar. Many people, including Ezhavas hate Natesan, and that hatred will get transferred to the BJP,” he declared.

Though Biju Ramesh has managed to grab eyeballs, both Mani and Natesan, his twin targets, remain largely unaffected. But Ramesh is optimistic. “Truth will always win; my father has taught me that. And the path to truth is hard. I will have to bear more pain. I am already being harassed by the Kerala government at many levels, and so I am concentrating on my business in Tamil Nadu,” he concludes.

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