The reported arrest of former bureaucrat M Sivasankar by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the alleged Life Mission scandal on Wednesday triggered sharp political reactions in Kerala as opposition parties slammed the Left government and urged Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to break his silence on the development.
The former principal secretary to Vijayan and once his close confidant, Sivasankar was taken into custody by the ED on Tuesday night in connection with alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act in the Life Mission, a flagship housing project of the state government.
Though he has reportedly been arrested, no official confirmation has come up in this regard so far.
The Opposition Congress, which had earlier raised several corruption charges in connection with the Life Mission, said truth would come out one day even if it is covered by a golden vessel and the arrest of Sivasankar is the latest proof for this.
Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly V D Satheesan said it was the person, who had been in a key position in the Chief Minister's office, was earlier arrested in the gold smuggling case and now in the bribery case.
With his arrest, the scandals that were covered up during the period of the first Vijayan government would come out one by one, he told reporters in Kochi.
"The Chief Minister has a moral responsibility to answer the questions raised by the Opposition and the people of the state," he said.
The habit of the CM is to remain silent when difficult questions arise and hold a press conference according to his convenience, he further charged.
"If neither the government nor the CM is involved in corruption, why are they afraid of the CBI investigation? If there is nothing to hide, they should be ready to withdraw their petition in the apex court against the CBI probe in the case," Satheesan said.
Lawyers have been appointed by spending crores of rupees from the people's tax money and the Chief Minister should give an answer to all these questions, the LoP added.
Senior Congress leader and former home minister, Ramesh Chennithala also wanted Vijayan to break his silence on the matter.
It is time for those who had said that the charges we raised against the Life Mission project were just politically motivated to give a reply, he said.
"The Chief Minister is the chairman of the Life Mission. All the present developments are pointing fingers at the CM. So, he should break his silence and react," he said.
He said the present probe by the central agency is going in the right direction and expressed hope that big sharks would be caught in the case soon if there was no political interference.
"The truth will come out one day even if it is covered by a golden vessel," he added.
Both Chennithala and Satheesan also claimed that the ED probe in the Life Mission case was slowed down for some time due to the settlement between the CPI(M) in Kerala and the BJP's national leadership.
However, senior BJP leader and union minister V Muraleedharan rejected the "settlement" charge raised by the Congress and said the retired IAS officer's arrest is an eye-opener for those who alleged a BJP-CPI(M) understanding.
"It's a tight slap on @pinarayivijayan, who is the Chairman of Life Mission Project - who even tried to seize files to stall the investigation. Shame!," he tweeted.
The union minister also alleged Sivasankar's arrest exposed the culture of kickbacks, corruption and rot in the system run by the Vijayan government.
"The arrest of M Shivshankar, Ex Principal Secretary at @CMOKerala exposed the culture of Kickbacks, Corruption & Rot in the system run by @pinarayivijayan & his cronies," he said.
Sivasankar was being questioned by the ED for the past three days here and he was taken into custody Tuesday night, officials said.
Sources said his arrest would be recorded soon and the former bureaucrat would be produced before a court on Wednesday.
He was taken for a medical check-up this morning, they added.
Sivasankar, who retired on January 31, was earlier arrested in a related gold smuggling case involving diplomatic baggage to UAE consulate.
The CBI had in 2020 filed an FIR in a Kochi court under section 120 B of the IPC and section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010 on a complaint by the then Wadakancherry Congress MLA, Anil Akkara, listing Santosh Eappen, Managing Director of Unitac Builder, Kochi as the first accused and Sane Ventures as the second accused.
The alleged FCRA violation and corruption in the project had snowballed into a major political issue at that time with opposition parties charging that Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the gold smuggling case, had admitted before an NIA court that she had received Rs 1 crore as commission from the project.
She had reportedly claimed that the money was for Sivasankar.
Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.