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Minister Jaleel on the defensive against nepotism charges

Minister Jaleel on the defensive against nepotism charges

Thiruvananthapuram: Although Minorities Welfare Minister KT Jaleel challenged critics to bring another candidate with the qualifications as his relative possessed, for posting as General Manager of Minoritites Financial Corporation, on the whole the minister sounded on the defensive when he addressed a press conference at Thiruvananthapuram. The defences that the minister posed looked fragile too, with his body language offering little assistance to the substance of what he said.

The minister's challenge came during the press-meet to repond to the criticisms raised by Muslim Youth League leader Firoz Khan and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala. While at pains to answer queries from mediamen, at one point Jaleel said that he cared little even if they called him an accused.

Jaleel justified that South Indian Bank, from where the incumbent was drawn is an entity under the statute of central government, and appointing one from it under deputation is not irregular under Kerala State and Subordinate Service Rules 9(b). Additional private secretary of former KM Mani from UDF, was one who came from South Indian Bank in a similar manner. Jaleel also cited the instance of former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan who was a B-Tech graduate. Vigilance clearance is required only for the head of an institution, and not for one coming on deputation. John Daniel came to head the state co-operative bank from Federal Bank, the miniser explained.

However, many of Jaleel's explanations appeared to fall flat before official positions and facts, thus putting him and the ruling front on the defensive. For one, this is a second instance of nepotism faced by the ministry after EP Jayarajan had to quit the cabinet on similar charges, and cancel the disputed appointment. It is another matter that Jayarajan later returned to the ministry after the court gave him a clean chit. On the whole Jaleel's press interaction did not give much for the public to be convinced of his innocent. With the Opposition taking a that the issue will not be allowed to be overshadowed by the burning Sabarimala issue, CPM and LDF will see their nerves racked over it.

At a different level, the CPM too feels that Jaleel's press conference in fact only served to worsen the situation surrounding the appointment. The posting was decided much earlier, but in the light of the allegations about EP Jayarajan's nepotism, the matter had been left on hold till that storm blew over. But finally this posting was not with the knowledge of CPM. Therefore, at least for now, Jaleel will have to face the music himself.

At the same time, CPM is yet to discuss the issue at the state secretariat meeting scheduled for 9 November. The fact that the party can ill afford another major issue shaking the ministry, offers some relief to Jaleel. And the chief minister's office is reported to be lending the factual support for Jaleel's counters to critics. The CM's office is of the view that a temporary appointment, this being on deputation, will not become a legal noose for Jaleel. Hence the miniser's justifications offered citing similar precedents in earlier governments.

All the same, circles close to CM have asked Jaleel to bring the debates on this to an early end, including if necessary with a cancellation of the appointment, especially since Muslim League, the UDF and BJP too have taken up the matter as a shot in their arm.

MYL's state president PK Feroz has cited that at a cabinet meeting on 13 October 2016, it was decided that appointments to top posts of public sector undertakings should have vigilance clearance and postings of General Manager, CEO and MD come under that. He also questioned Jaleel's citing of KM Mani's personal staff, since the two have no comparison; any one at the minister's choice could be appointed as personal staff.

Remesh Chennithala pointed out the GM himself had clarified that the posted individual had not appeared for interview which is enough to make the appointment illegal. Further, the miniser's statement begs the question why those without qualification should have been called for interview at all.

The BJP in its reaction to the issue pointed out that the minister who first said that newspaper advertisements were given, is now saying that a press release, not advertisement, was issued. He further sasis that all the seven who applied were not ineligible and then it is incomprehensible why ineligible candidates were invited to interview.

Jaleel's citing of Raghuram Rajan as one with B-Tech also would make flimsy argument, for Rajan had followed up his education with creditable MBA-equivalent IIM diploma and doctorate from reputed US universities, all in finance-related disciplines.

On the whole Jaleel looks in for discomfort with a lot of answering to do on the nitty gritty of the appointment.

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