Sivasankar retires after an eventful career marked by success and setbacks

Published - January 31, 2023 09:54 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former Principal Secretary M. Sivasankar retired on Tuesday, summing up a roller coaster of an eventful career marked by steep successes and bleak setbacks.

Mr. Sivasankar, viewed as the face of the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) in the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, took a precipitous fall from grace when Central agencies implicated him in the UAE consulate-linked gold smuggling case that rocked the administration in 2020.

The Customs arrested Mr. Sivasankar in January 2021, bringing intense political duress on the government to disavow him.

An internal inquiry found that Mr. Sivasankar’s “association and frequent contacts with a foreign consulate official” violated service rules. It led to his suspension “given the wider ramifications of the case”.

Mr. Sivasankar’s alleged association with Swapna Suresh, the prime accused in the gold smuggling case, led to an adverse turn in his decades-long career in the halls of power.

The top bureaucrat, who purportedly bore the imprimatur of the Chief Minister, served 98 days in jail as a remand prisoner, perhaps with only a few books for company.

Mr. Sivasankar also became the focus of a recriminatory political campaign personally targeting Mr. Vijayan and his family.

The Opposition portrayed him as the architect of an alleged plot to palm off the health information of citizens to a U.S.-based big data company under cover of predicting COVID-19 pandemic patterns.

He was the subject of several Congress walkouts in the Assembly and the main “schemer” in the Opposition’s narrative of the LDF government.

The LDF maintained that political malfeasance had wrongly motivated the Central agencies to implicate Mr. Sivasankar in the case, with an eye to tar and feather Mr. Vijayan.

Mr. Sivasankar’s arrest degraded the Centre-State relationship. It prompted the government to institute a commission to examine the alleged attempt by Central agencies to implicate the CMO in the case falsely.

Ms. Swapna’s unflattering portrayal of Mr. Sivasankar in her bestselling book on the scandal and potential legal jeopardy seemed to stalk Mr. Sivasankar as he steps into retirement.

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