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The Hindu
The Hindu
G. Anand

Gold smuggling case dominates the poll day narrative in Kerala

People on their way to cast their vote in the local body election at a polling booth in the Nehru Trophy ward of the Alappuzha municipality on Tuesday. Suresh Alleppey (Source: Suresh Alleppey)

New episodes of scandalmongering and finger-pointing associated with the sensational UAE gold smuggling case appeared to dominate the political narrative during the first phase of the local body elections in Kerala on Tuesday.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State president K. Surendran seemed to set the stage for the election day drama by claiming in Kochi that Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan and two Ministers had helped gold smugglers. He also alleged that the Speaker’s foreign trips were suspect.

The impact of Mr. Surendran’s averments on voters was debatable. However, the Congress and the BJP further endeavoured to make political capital out of two other developments later in the day.

C.M. Raveendran, additional private secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, got admitted to the Government Medical College Hospital here citing ill health. Opposition parties alleged that Mr. Raveendran had attempted to buck the Enforcement Directorate’s summons to appear before it in Kochi on Thursday.

The date of his summons fell on a polling day.

The Left Democratic Front allegedly feared the news optics of Mr. Raveendran’s arrival for questioning at the ED’s office would not augur well for the public image of the ruling coalition on a crucial day. The agency had summoned Mr. Raveendran for the third time.

Swapna’s statement

The Congress and the BJP also sought to highlight gold case suspect Swapna Suresh’s statement in a court in Kochi.

She had claimed that a set of persons, possibly police and jail officials, had warned her against cooperating with the Customs Department or incriminating those in power.

Swapna, a COFEPOSA detainee, said that she felt threatened in prison and feared for her family outside. Opposition parties spotlighted the developments as moves to prevent the investigation from reaching higher-ups in the government.

CPI(M) reaction

Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] acting State secretary A. Vijayaraghavan said in Kozhikode that politically partisan officials in central agencies had repeatedly enabled Opposition fronts to cast the government under a cloud of suspicion during the election period by passing on trumped-up stories aimed at slurring the integrity of persons who held high-office.The muckraking against the Speaker and other attempts at spreading disinformation about the government would have no bearing on the outcome of the polls. Citizens had empirical evidence about the government’s social security and development plan, he said.

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