LDF tries to draw a line under gold scandal

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government on Tuesday attempted to draw a line under the UAE diplomatic baggage gold smuggling scandal by "unexpectedly" conceding an Opposition demand to adjourn the Assembly to discuss the controversy.

Swapna Suresh, an accused in the economic offence, had cast Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at the centre of the furore by testifying against him and his family in a court of law.

Subsequently, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had unleashed an aggressive street campaign for Mr. Vijayan's resignation.

The government's latest gambit seemed in stark contrast to its earlier rejection of two Opposition motions to discuss the topic. Mr. Vijayan responded to the submission: "Let the public realise the truth."

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan objected to the government's "condescending" tone. "Public backlash had forced the humiliating climb down," he said.

The UDF framed its accusations as questions to paint a vivid picture of how the previous LDF government had allegedly given free rein to gold smugglers. They asked whether Mr. Vijayan had any intelligence warning. The Opposition relied on court statements and testimonies to drive home its narrative.

The UDF wanted to know why the government had moved to prosecute Swapna instead of countering her charges legally. It asked whether the government had employed dubious mediators and plainclothes officers to coerce Swapna into retracting the "damning testimony" against Mr. Vijayan.

They challenged Mr. Vijayan to face a CBI inquiry to clear his name. Harsh partisan exchanges, sometimes bordering on the personal, marked the four-hour debate.

At one point, Mr. Vijayan censured the Opposition for "dragging" his family into the controversy. The Chief Minister slammed the "right wing media" for the "scurrilous attack" on his integrity.

The LDF's riposte was pre-meditated and pointed. It restated that a Congress-BJP axis had resurrected old lies to denigrate the government. Mr. Satheesan countered that the LDF raised the "RSS bogey" when cornered. "If Sangh Parivar harboured Swapna currently, the CPI(M) was her benefactor earlier," he said.

The CPI(M) legislators said the allegations of contraband gold secreted in Koran, dates and biriyani vessels were designed to stoke Islamaphobia and asked whether the IUML endorsed them. They alleged the Centre had scuttled the probe at the outset by stating the the UAE consulate had no role in the crime. The House rejected the motion by voice vote.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2022 6:03:03 pm |