The controversies surrounding the seizure of 30 kg of gold smuggled through the diplomatic baggage of UAE consular attache in Thiruvananthapuram has snowballed with dimensions enough to rattle state politics in a big way. The facts that emerged through the interrogation of Sarith Kumar, who was dismissed from the post of public relations officer in the consulate, have not only attracted national attention, but also led to the instant dismissal of Swapna Suresh from the post of operations manager in the state's IT department.
On top of it all, M Sivasankar, Principal Secretary to the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has also been removed from his posts. And because of this expulsion of Sivasankar, who is also the secretary in the IT department – which comes directly under by the chief minister - the issue will, far from getting stifled, may get more complicated. When the same official's role in the recent government's deals with Sprinklr and Bevco's systems had become the targets of Opposition criticism, the chief minister had paid no heed to them. But this time, when during his presser the chief minister said that the appointment of Swapna Suresh in the IT department was not with his knowledge, it did give an impression that something was rotten in Denmark. When the pictures of Swapna at events attended by the chief minister, including those abroad, emerged in the hours that followed, his plea of innocence started sounding less convincing. If the statements of Sarith Kumar, now in custody can be taken at their face value, the volume of gold smuggling does not look like being limited to the 30 kg now seized by customs.
Through the diplomatic baggage - which only the consignee diplomatic mission can open - gold worth at least Rs 100 crore has arrived in Kochi over six parcels. With the UAE embassy totally disowning any connection with the content of the baggage, a probe looks all set to extend to the huge smuggling and its inside stories with the players involved in it. More so when the matter is likely to affect the deep friendly relations between India and the UAE.
In addition, unless the enquiry is extended to the left government of Kerala and its nerve centres, and the same is comprehensive and impartial, the people are sure to be unconvinced. From the statement of CPM state chief Kodiyeri Balakrishnan that a thorough probe is to be held and culprits whoever they be, will not be spared, it may be gleaned that the party is planning to face the critical situation with confidence.
It is too early to forget, and it is pertinent too, that the current LDF government romped into power capitalising on the scandal during the last part of the former Oommen Chandy government, following disclosures in the media by a woman involved in the solar panel scam, Sarita. It cannot be denied that the election result was greatly helped by the solar graft allegations. Now the new issue surfaces when the state is again getting set for the local bodies first, soon to be followed by state assembly elections next year.
When the whole world is beset with the pandemic of Covid-19, and Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his health minister are in the limelight for their success in taming the pandemic, the government has been getting all set to face the election with that image. And the determination to prevent a community spread of Covid at any cost, is also partly driven by that determination to avert a loss of image on that score. It is in the midst of this that the gold smuggling saga with Swapna Suresh in a key role, gets unravelled raising fresh hopes for the opposition. In all probability, the chief minister and his advisers should be racking their brains on how to tackle this.
When the opposition UDF, and the state unit of the BJP backed by its power at the Centre, insist that the truth can come out only through a CBI probe, the probability of that cannot be ruled out. It remains to be seen how the CBI, which cannot claim to be free and impartial and is directly controlled by prime minister's office, will conduct itself in the gold smuggling case which is loaded with political dimensions. Whatever that be, there are certain truths that need to be underlined.
News floating in relation to the peripheries of power around the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan's office, would once again ratify the Malayalam axiom about the havoc that can be caused by women and the precious metal. The people are forced to believe that even in the left government, it is not always expertise or commitment, but rather certain unjustifiable extraneous considerations that act as eligibility to be placed in responsible positions. Four years ago, this government came into power with a promise that everything would be set right. But now the air is full of apprehensions whether that government will have to leave office with an image of failing to fix the core.