KA Shaji from Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur
It used to be a party that attacked other political organisations for corruption and lack of transparency in financial dealings. But now all that seems to have been a thing of the past, at least in the CPM’s Kerala unit.
Pinarayi Vijayan, the CPM state secretary whose camp rules the roost in the party, is the first top CPM leader to come under CBI scanner for his alleged involvement in a corruption case. CBI sources say a crucial file pinning his role in the SNC Lavalin case has been unearthed recently. To add to the faction’s troubles, the state vigilance bureau, which functions under Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, has registered two corruption cases recently in which top CPM leaders like party central committee member EP Jayarajan are facing a probe.
Now the Pinarayi faction’s reputation has touched a new low with reports of a Rs 60-lakh deal with a businessman of “dubious” credentials for organising an international soccer tournament that was held in memory of the popular CPM leader and former Chief Minister EK Nayanar in April this year. The contribution came from Parrot Grove, a Chennai-based company owned by NRI businessman Pharis Abubacker, that is behind several international business ventures including a call centre, but has never engaged in any business in Kerala.
“Though the company run by Abubacker was the major sponsor, no banner or hoarding of that company was displayed at the stadium. We are curious to know what is the interest of Abubacker’s company in that football tourney and what is the CPM’s relation with him,’’ asks K. Sudhakaran, the Congress MLA from Kannur, where the soccer tournament was held. According to senior BJP leader O. Rajagopal, there were reasons to suspect Abubacker as the custodian of Vijayan ’s illegally amassed wealth. “Abubacker is the custodian of the bribe Vijayan received in the SNC Lavalin deal,’’ he alleged.
Abubacker is a close friend of Vijayan and has been in the news since he took over Deepika, Kerala’s oldest newspaper. Abubacker, who took control of Deepika in a non-transparent way, has changed the newspaper’s colour altogether. Earlier owned by one of the state’s many Catholic church, it is no more the champion of the Catholic cause but virtually an organ of the Pinarayi faction. Ever since Abubacker took over, Deepika has run a prolonged character assassination campaign against Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, Vijayan ’s chief rival.
Even before taking over Deepika, Abubacker created headlines in Kerala for his alleged involvement in misappropriating funds of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF),
Recently, in the face of mounting criticism, Abubacker was forced to come out in the open. CPM’s own Kairali television channel deputed its editor John Brittas to interview Abubacker , the ‘invisible man’, and set aside two hours of primetime for the interview. But VS loyalists aren’t buying it. “Till now, I have regarded John Brittas as a journalist. Now I am realising that he is a best actor too,’’ lampoons CPM MP S. Ajayakumar, Achuthanandan himself said the interview was stagemanaged. “People would not believe such ill-motivated attempts to defame my character,’’ he said.
The CPM’s decision to organise such a soccer tournament in Kannur raised eyebrows right from the beginning, as no other party in the country had held such an event. Moreover, the late Nayanar was not even fond of football. However, an organising committee was formed with Vijayan as chairman, disgraced Deshabhimani GM EP Jayarajan as working chairman and party state committee member MV Govindan as general convener. Furthermore, the issue assumes national significance as several national and international teams participated in the tournament, and was attended by VIPs including CPM general secretary Prakash Karat and Achuthanandan.
However, neither Vijayan nor Jayarajan came out in the open about taking money from Abubacker . Govindan, who issued a press statement claiming that all deals related to Nayanar Memorial Soccer Tournament were transparent, said nothing about CPM’s connection with Abubacker or about Abubacker ’s interest in soccer and
“All the sponsors except Abubacker ’s company are well-known among the people of Kerala. All the sponsors of the event except Parrot Grove had boards and hoardings displayed in and around the stadium. Why did that company contribute Rs 60 lakh without any commercial interests? To my knowledge, Abubacker has no business interest in Kannur,’’ points out Berlin Kunhananthan Nair, a CPM leader who had to face the party leadership’s ire for his open criticism. Chief Minister Achuthanandan was also at pains to talk about the deal. “We would inquire into the issue. I am yet to look into that matter,’’ he said in reply to a question raised during his weekly press briefing.