Kerala gold smuggling: Junior foreign minister holds fast as BJP raises pitch for CM’s resignation

Minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan on Sunday started a day-long hunger strike to demand the resignation of Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan over the gold smuggling case in the southern state.

Muraleedharan, who belongs to Kerala, is holding the day’s fast at his official residence in New Delhi.

“This is not only a gold smuggling case but it is related to India’s security. It is also related to the financing network of terrorist organisations. A thorough probe should be conducted. Kerala CM must resign. This is our demand,” Muralidhar Rao, the BJP’s national general secretary, was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

The opposition has stepped up pressure on the Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government over the gold smuggling case and asked him to step down taking moral responsibility for the scam.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began a one-day fast on Saturday and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) has also announced a series of protests from Wednesday.

“The CM is planning to get his way by sacrificing some officials. Everything happened under his nose. Some reports even suggest the proceeds of smuggling were used to fund anti-national activities. He has to own up moral responsibility and resign,” Muraleedharan had said on Saturday.

“During one of the recent protests (anti-Citizenship [Amendment] Act, 2019) against the Union government, the CM had sat on a dharna blocking the road in Thiruvananthapuram,” he had said.

The gold smuggling case surfaced on July 5 when PS Sarith, a former employee of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram, was arrested.

Sarith was arrested when he had come to receive a consignment that had arrived from Dubai in the name of a consulate official. Later, 30 kilograms of gold was retrieved from the consignment and the case was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Swapna Suresh, a senior information technology (I-T) consultant and her friend Sandip Nair, were arrested from their hideout in Bengaluru on June 10. Vijayan’s powerful principal secretary Sivasankar, a senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, has been suspended over his alleged liaison with Suresh.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), which is a key constituent of the LDF government, has slammed the Congress and the BJP for joining hands to topple a democratically-elected dispensation.

“The CM had recommended a central agency (NIA) probe soon after the case surfaced. Let them go to the NIA and submit all proofs if they have. We are not worried about the ongoing investigation,” Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the party’s state secretary, said.

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