The CBI inquiry into the foreign contribution angle of the controversial LIFE Mission-UAE Red Crescent deal seemed to present a new bottleneck for the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government as it attempts to plot a safe course across turbulent political waters ahead of the local body elections this year.
The CBI had hinted in a court filing in Kochi on Friday that its inquiry would focus on the alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, (FCRA) in the contract.
The LDF reportedly had a strong presage that the Congress and the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) could exploit the development to discredit the flagship of the government’s housing programme for the poor. The front also foresaw a season of renewed anti-government protests.
The LDF also believed that the optics of the CBI questioning high-ranking government officials might not aid its political prospects in a crucial election year.
The government had already taken much flak from Opposition parties for defending Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel against the accusation of abetting gold smuggling under the cover of Koran import.
The repeated questioning of M. Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, had not, arguably, augured well for the government’s image.
Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said Mr Vijayan was aware of the corruption and inherent anomalies in the deal. BJP State president K. Surendran said the CBI should probe the corruption angle in the case given its national security implications and international dimension. The Vigilance probe ordered by the government was an insincere talk.
The ₹20 crore contract had come under a cloud after an accused in the UAE gold smuggling case said in a court filing that she had received ₹1 crore as a percentage for pushing the construction contract in the direction of a private builder.
Subsequently, two Ministers and a media advisor to Mr. Vijayan claimed that the builder had paid ₹9 crore as bribe to bag the contract.
Top LDF leaders, including CPI State secretary Kanam Rajendran and Dr. Jaleel, met with CPI(M) leaders at the AKG Centre here late Friday to weigh the situation.