Cases Against League MLAs To Seriously Hit Party Poll Prospects
LDF has now turned the tables on Muslim League and could put its rivals on backfoot as the state goes to local body polls in December.
When LDF was in the eye of storm following the gold smuggling controversy, Opposition UDF wasted no time in unleashing a scathing attack on the front, with Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) being the brutal of its allies. IUML pulled no punches and criticised LDF left, right, and centre, literally keeping the Kerala government on the defensive.
But the recent arrest of IUML leader M C Kamarudheen MLA in connection with Fashion Gold Jewellery scam and vigilance inquiry procedures against another prominent party leader K M Shaji MLA mean that LDF has now turned the tables on Muslim League and could put its rivals on backfoot as the state goes to local body polls in December.
UDF began election campaigns well ahead of LDF and BJP and was in pole position to win most number of seats at least in Malabar as Muslim League and Congress leaders managed to forge a local level alliance with Welfare Party, political outfit of Jamaate Islami, eyeing more minority votes in the region. The smuggling controversy and allegations against Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel had also handed an upperhand to UDF..
The unprecedented turn of events after the arrest of Kamarudheen and a fresh vigilance court order for a detailed probe into the disproportionate asset case against Shaji, however, tipped the condition in favour of LDF, giving a political weapon to the party to fight in the strongholds of Muslim League.
It was on Saturday that a Crime Branch special investigation team(SIT) arrested Manjeswaram MLA Kamarudheen in connection with the scam. The IUML leader is accused of over 100 cheating cases registered indifferent police stations in Kannur and Kasargod districts and was arrested after detailed interrogation at the district police training centre in Kasaragod. It was the first time that an MLA was arrested in the state for a financial fraud.
Over 100 cases have already been registered against Kamarudheen and Pookoya Thangal, another local Muslim League leader in Kasargod, in Chanthera and Kasargod police stations in Kasaragod district and Payyannur police station in Kannur district. It was in 2006 that Kamarudheen, along with others, launched Fashion Gold International which was registered in Cheruvathoor. Khamarduheen was the chairman while Pookoya Thangal, who is a district committee member of IUML, was the director.
Within six years, three more companies were founded under the same address. It is estimated that the companies have raised a fund of around Rs 140 crore from more than 740 people, a majority of them being Muslim League supporters and their relatives. The jewellery showrooms were shut down in December 2019, and Kamarudheen and Pookoya Thangal failed to return the deposits to investors. The SIT issued a lookout notice on Pookkoya Thangal, who is key accused in the investment fraud case, along with two others.
Anticipating strong criticism from left parties, Kamarudheen has already come up alleging that there was a planned conspiracy behind his arrest. “I have no part in it. No offence is in my name. The only reason I am prosecuted is that I am the chairman,” he told the media. The party leaders including IUML president P K Kunhalikkutty also came up with the statement defending the MLA. But, party is likely struggle to fight the criticism from LDF, as most of the victims of the jewelery scam were Muslim League supporters or sympathisers.
Kasargod and Manjeswaram are bastions of Muslim League in Northern Malabar. As CPM is diligent to woo minority voters leaning towards Muslim League ahead of local body poll, the controversy over the scam may create ripples in grass root level and it may adversely affect the election results of UDF candidates in hundreds of local bodies.
Kamarudheen’s predecessor PB Abdul Razak – whose death necessitated the bypoll at Manjeswaram- had scraped through the 2016 assembly election by 89 votes over BJP’s K Surendran. With the big victory in 2019, Kamarudheen had managed to regain the lost glory of Muslim league in the region. In the backdrop of the fresh controversy over the gold investment scam, it is likely for the party to be hopeful for the UDF upperhand it had enjoyed in the region.
On Tuesday, enforcement directorate (ED) officials collected a detailed statement from K M Shaji at its office in Kozhikode. Shaji told the media that he will produce all documents regarding his assets to ED which initiated a probe against him based on a complaint filed by Kannur block panchayat president Padmanabhan that Shaji received Rs 25 lakh as bribe for allotting plus two course for a school in Azheekode constituency. ED officials have also recorded statements of his wife Asha on Monday, in connection with the case.
The Vigilance court judge has already directed the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau superintendent of police to conduct a preliminary investigation into the charges against the MLA. The court order was based on a petition filed by a social worker and lawyer M R Hareesh alleging that Azhikode MLA Shaji had amassed wealth disproportionate to his sources of income and had received funds from abroad, misusing his official powers. The petitioner also alleged that Shaji filed false details regarding his wealth in his election affidavit.
It is being observed that the IUML will defend the allegations against the party highlighting that the cases against party leaders are not serious in nature and the move is part of a political agenda to tarnish the image of the party. Kunhalikutty has already stated that the case against Kamarudheen is not based on serious offence, but it was only a matter of business failure. Party is likely to highlight the fact that allegations against Shaji will not stand in court.