KOCHI: The allegation against Binoy Vinodhini Balakrishnan, son of Communist Party of India (Marxist) Kerala state secretary and politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan that he cheated a Dubai-based company of Rs.13 crores could be shrouded in intrigues but it raises serious questions about the increasing quest of party leaders and their family members for wealth.
Binoy claimed there is no case pending against him in Dubai, but he doesn’t deny his financial dealings with Jaas Tourism LLC, which has approached the authorities for his arrest and extradition to Dubai. Benoy claimed that he had settled the case and some vested interests were raking it up now with ulterior motives.
A reading of the case shows that the deal was shady. A Times of India report has raised doubt about the financial capacity of Jaas Tourism to extend such a huge loan to Binoy based on the research it conducted into the credentials of the firm.
The firm that operates from a tiny office situated on the ground floor of a small building at Deira Dubai already has a case in Kerala against Chavara CPM MLA Vijayan Pillai’s son Sreejith for allegedly swindling Rs.10 crores.
The dealings were made through Rahul Krishnan, who is the Indian partner of the firm owned by UAE national Hasan Ismaeel Abdulla Al Marzooqi, is a persona non-grata in United Arab Emirates. His wife Ragi Rahul manages the affairs of the company at Dubai.
The charge against Biony was made by Mazooqi in a letter he sent to the CPM politburo seeking its intervention for his arrest and extradition. The letter alleged that Binoy had absconded from Dubai after borrowing 7 million Dirham, equivalent to Rs.13 crores, in two instalments for buying an Audi car and for launching a business in Saudi Arabia, UAE, India and Nepal.
The UAE national also alleged that Binoy has taken money from many banks and individuals in UAE. There are over five criminal cases registered against him by Dubai police and public prosecution so far, he alleged.
The case shows complex web of connections the CPM leaders and their family members maintain with business houses owned by Malayalis in the Middle East. Krishnan is the nephew of Jayantha Kumar, who used to supply manpower to RP Group, owned by Kollam-based Ravi Pillai.
Binoy’s younger brother Bineesh Kodiyeri had once worked with the group as its India vice-president. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s daughter T Veena had also worked as CEO of an IT firm owned by Ravi Pillai at Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram.
Ravi Pillai has reasons to oblige top political leaders since some of his businesses in the state have flourished with political patronage. The opposition parties have described the government’s decision to hand over the archeologically valuable Kovalam Palace to Pillai’s hotel group as a gift from the LDF.
Environmentalists also see red in burying a case against his group for setting up a hotel at Kollam in violation of the coastal zone regulations. The successive governments in the state have been sitting on a direction of the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) for demolishing parts of the hotel complex that were constructed illegally since 2015.
The allegation against Benoy may open floodgates of shady deals involving top leaders and their kin. The CPM has sought to distance itself from the allegation saying that Binoy is not a member of the party and it has nothing to do with his deals.
However, political observers feel that the party cannot wish it away since the financial deals involving the party leaders and their kin are against the communist values that the party seeks to impart on the cadres, majority of them are poor labourers, who built the party with their sweat.
One such party member was Palora Matha, who donated her only calf to the party when CPM patriarch EMS Namboodiripad was raising funds for the party mouthpiece in the 1950s. When Namboodiripad asked her how she would survive, she said wanted the party to survive even if she died.
“Many like Palora have helped the party immensely to gain strong root in the state. They gave everything to the party as the leaders then were committed to the people. Majority of the present-day leaders are interested in accumulating wealth for the party as well as themselves,” says Rajesh, an autorickshaw driver in Kochi.
The CPM today has turned out to be a business empire in Kerala with a total turnover of Rs.25, 000 crores, 10,000 pieces of real estate and over 1 lakh employees, according to a report in the Hindustan Times. The CPM turnover is roughly 16 per cent of the state’s gross domestic product.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which was put in the dock by both LDF and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) over the alleged disproportionate growth of a company owned by party chief Amith Shah’s son Jay Shah, has demanded an investigation into the allegations against Benoy and the wealth of CPM and its leaders.
Former party state president V Muraleedharan alleged that the party had accumulated the wealth by misusing the power they wielded in the state. He said that he had approached the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) to conduct an investigation into the wealth of the party and its leaders two years ago.
“The VACB turned down my petition citing lack of evidence to proceed with the case. It did so without even conducting a preliminary investigation into my complaint. I hope it will take cognizance of my complaint in the light of the current allegation against the CPM secretary’s son,” Muraleedharan said.
Political observers feel that the CPM attempt to brush the issue under the carpet on technical grounds may cause lot of embarrassment to the party leadership when they face the party delegates at the state conference at Thrissur in the last week of February and party congress at Hyderabad in April.
A section of the CPM leadership feels that the allegation against Benoy could have been raked up in the wake of the defeat of party general secretary Sitaram Yechury’s draft political resolution seeking an understanding with Congress at the Kolkata central committee meeting last week with an eye on the impending party meets.
The Kerala unit of the party had backed the alternate resolution moved by former party chief Prakash Karat ruling out any truck with Congress. Many had described this as a pro-Modi move aimed at getting some top leaders extricated from various cases pending against them, including the SNC Lavalin scandal.
Whatever the truth, political observers believe that the party may have to do a lot of explaining to retain the trust of the people, who have voted it to power on an anti-corruption plank.