Nobody doubts the integrity of the CM, but in all fairness, he should face questions regarding his office.
It was a not-so-rare sight to see Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan go off the handle and seethe with rage during the press conference on Friday. Whenever cornered, he is known to lose his cool and shoot the messenger – the media. He had once famously shouted at the media to get out of his sight. Media, sometimes, becomes his favourite punching bag.
On Friday, Pinarayi was seen visibly upset at the start of the press meet, but got livid and raised his voice, almost shivering with rage towards the end. And this was shown live on Asianet New, Manorama News, Mathrubhumi News and other news channels as there was stunned silence.
The trigger was the set of questions asked by journalists on the hold of Swapna Suresh, the accused in the multi-crore gold smuggling case, over his office – the CMO.
Nobody ever said that the CM had a hand in the gold smuggling case, but everyone wants to know the dubious role played by the CMO in the case. Can Pinarayi answer how Swapna escaped to Bengaluru when his police department was looking out for her for 6 days and the NIA got her in 24 hours?
Swapna is on record that officials helped her escape. Who are these officials?
How did the principal secretary to the CM and IT secretary M Sivasankar appoint Suresh to a top post in Space Park when all that she had in hand was a forged degree certificate? What was such a high-ranking official like Sivasankar doing in a flat with Swapna, who is an employee he had appointed? The CM can say that it is not his duty to examine such appointments or visits; fair enough, but there is something called vicarious liability. The buck stops at Pinarayi’s table.
Former Prime Minister, the late Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was earlier the Railway Minister, resigned from his post minutes after a train mishap. He was not driving the train, but he took moral responsibility.
It is not that Pinarayi should step down, but he should at least have the decency to admit that there were lapses in his office and in the police department. That will only enhance his image. The people in Kerala know him as a clean man, he will emerge cleaner by admitting to lapses and mistakes rather than aim his guns at the media.
It is the CM’s allegation that there was an attempt to unseat him from the office and media persons were aiding that agenda. No, Mr Vijayan, the media is only doing its job of showing you the mirror. Nobody wants to unseat him except the Opposition. But it would be good to occasionally look into the mirror rather than smashing it to smithereens.
“The facts will soon come out. Let’s see whose heartbeat will raise then,” he said. But then, why is the CM’s heart beating so fast over just a few questions?
When asked about the statement of Swapna quoted by the NIA counsel in the high court that she had casual association with the CM, Vijayan said what is the big fuss about that. “I am the CM and many people may know me. What is the acquaintance beyond that?” He should have stopped there. He was right up to this point. But then he went on to add: “What do you want? What (does) your organisations want? Is that to say Kerala’s CM had aided gold smuggling? Are you trying for that? However hard you tried, that wouldn’t happen.”
Again correct, but why shout and throw counter-allegations?
“People know the truth. You are trying to construct a different narrative. You are attempting to change the public perception. Is that the duty of the media? You are becoming spokespersons of a caucus. On what basis are you carrying news against me who is the chief minister of Kerala? What is the evidence?”
A counter-question would be: What is the evidence the CM has that the media is trying to create a narrative?
“Do you want to portray that the CM and CMO are aiding gold smuggling?” CM? No, in big capital letters; CMO? Yes, the office is under a cloud and the man responsible for this is Sivashankar.
Earlier, on Thursday, Swapna Suresh claimed that she carried a lot of clout within the state bureaucracy.
Special prosecutor for Customs advocate K Ramkumar submitted that the respondent (Swapna) getting free access at all check-posts despite her disclosing her identity, shows the influence she commanded in the corridors of power and among law enforcement agencies in the state. He also talked about a meeting involving the respondent that happened at an apartment around 1am to indicate her influence and involvement in the case.
Responding to the defence’s claim that she was innocent, Ramkumar wondered “Why did she then flee with the co-accused?” “They first went to a water-front resort in Varkala. After being spotted by a local body member there, they came to Kochi. They stayed in Kochi before fleeing to Bangalore. She knew that she could easily go to Bangalore which means that she had clout among resourceful persons and they facilitated her escape.”