Kerala’s governor charges CM’s office with patronising smuggling

Arif Mohammad Khan, the governor, and the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala have been at odds for some time. On Thursday, Khan accused the office of Pinarayi Vijayan, the chief minister, of patronising smuggling.

His secretary was removed. Now books are also being written about it. People sitting in the CM [chief minister]’s office dictate VCs [vice chancellors] to appoint their relatives who are under-qualified or unqualified,” Khan said in New Delhi.

“If the CM’s office is involved in smuggling, I will interfere. If they make illegal appointments in universities, I will interfere. I do not know why the CM office is getting involved in such illegal activities.”

Khan said he never appointed anyone to universities. He added he was only pointing out “illegal appointments” there. Khan said he was ready to quit if Vijayan could prove his allegation that the governor made some appointments to please the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

He asked journalists to read the book of Swapna Suresh, an accused in the 2020 gold smuggling case, about these activities and her nexus with people in power.

The issue first came to light in July 2020 when customs officials discovered 30 kg of gold concealed in bathroom fixtures disguised as official luggage bound for the UAE embassy in Thiruvananthapuram. M Sivasankar, Vijayan’s principal secretary, was detained for allegedly having connections to some of the accused. The situation is being looked into by five national agencies. Due to threats and intimidation, the Enforcement Directorate has petitioned the Supreme Court to have the case relocated from Kerala.

Khan said Vijayan and the Left Front were accusing him of making appointments at RSS’s behest. “Will he [Vijayan] be able to resign if he is not able to approve his charges?” He asked Vijayan to prove his allegations.

He rejected the allegation that he was an RSS nominee. “If I point out serious lapses in varsities how can I become RSS overnight.”

“He is trying to undermine the progress in the higher education sector and trying to implement saffron [RSS] agenda. He wants to form a parallel government but we will oppose it strongly,” CM said.

The opposition Congress questioned Khan’s up to this point silence over the subject of gold smuggling.

“He could have acted two years ago when the smuggling case surfaced. Now he is saying the CM’s office patronised everything. He should act rather than make tit-for-tat statements,” said state Congress chief K Sudhakaran MP.

Khan’s refusal to approve 11 ordinances brought forward by the state administration in August strained their already tense relationship. To enact these laws, the administration was compelled to call a special assembly session.

Khan later approved nine of the measures the legislature passed. He refused to sign two documents that would have restricted the Lokayukta’s and the chancellor of universities’ authority. Later on, Khan and Vijayan held separate press conferences to criticise each other.

Khan last month said if ministers continue to lower the dignity of his office “he will withdraw his pleasure.” But Khan clarified it was not a threat to sack any minister. Vijayan hit back and asked Khan not to become “a subject of self-ridicule.”

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