Kerala

CM ups the ante in stand-off with Customs

March of dissent: Supporters of the ruling Left Democratic Front taking out a rally to the Customs office in Kochi on Saturday .  

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday upped the ante in the LDF government’s stand-off with the Customs (Preventive) over the alleged "role" of the top political executive in the foreign currency smuggling aspect of the UAE consulate-linked illegal gold importation case.

The Customs had taken over the task of disseminating political hyperbole to advantage the BJP-Congress axis in Kerala. Customs Commissioner (Preventive) now spearheaded the propaganda campaign against the LDF government, he said.

The official had wrongfully impleaded in a case in which the Prisons and Correctional Department, COFEPOSA detainee Swapna Suresh and an Assistant Commissioner, Customs (Preventive), were respondents.

The official had thus created a fig leaf of an excuse to insinuate that Swapna had ‘‘stated with clarity about the smuggling of foreign currency at the instance of Hon'ble Chief Minister (Pinarayi Vijayan) and Hon'ble Speaker (P. Sreeramakrishnan).’’

He had cherry-picked portions of Swapna's sworn statement to tarnish the government. The official had acted like the cat’s paw of the Congress-BJP axis.

He leaked the statement to the media to advantage the Opposition. The official had violated the confidential nature of sworn depositions. The government would seek legal recourse to counter the unabashed act of defamation and violation of the election code.

Mr. Vijayan's defiant take on the Central agency came against the backdrop of LDF protest marches to Customs offices in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode. The government also seemed set for a run-in with Commissioner Customs (Preventive) Sumit Kumar, who remarked about the LDF protests in a Facebook post: "A political party is trying intimidation, will not work".

The Chief Minister said Swapna had given the sworn statement under duress. She had not raised such allegations in her initial statements to the Customs, Enforcement Directorate (ED) or National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

Mr. Vijayan said the Customs had followed up on ED's bid to scuttle KIIFB to strike at the core of the State's development pitch. Central agencies had declared war on the people of Kerala.

The Customs investigation into the gold smuggling case had reached a dead-end. The main conspirators in Dubai were still at large. Gold smuggling via the diplomatic channel had occurred under the watch of Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan, he said.

The Chief Minister said the LDF's popularity had unnerved the Congress-BJP axis. The clique had exploited Central agencies to lay down a smokescreen of lies by attempting to implicate the political executive in the smuggling case falsely. Both parties had underestimated the political resolve of the LDF to counter such fake campaigns and emerge victorious in the Assembly polls.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 4:01:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/cm-ups-the-ante-in-stand-off-with-customs/article34007222.ece

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