In August 2023, a journal reported a startling accusation involving Veena Vijayan, the daughter of Pinarayi Vijayan, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) supremo and Chief Minister of Kerala. The allegation claimed that Veena Vijayan had received monthly payments for three years, spanning from 2017 to 2020, from Cochin Minerals and Rutile Limited (CMRL), an ilmenite company located near Kochi, purportedly for services that were never rendered. According to the Income Tax Interim Settlement Board, operating under Section 245AA of the Income Tax Act, the total payment amounted to Rs 1.72 crore. The New Delhi Branch of the Board reportedly asserted that these payments were facilitated due to a close association with a high-profile VIP.
The controversy initially surfaced on January 25, 2019, and since then, various political entities including the BJP, NDA, the Opposition Congress, and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) have consistently alleged that the Board’s accusation was directed towards the Chief Minister.
On January 13, reports emerged indicating that the Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs has initiated an inquiry into alleged irregularities associated with Exalogic Solutions, a company owned and operated by Veena Vijayan, the daughter of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. This investigation is linked to the reported ‘monthly payment’ Veena Vijayan allegedly received from Cochin Minerals and Rutile Limited (CMRL).
The news has reverberated through the ranks of the political party, causing a stir among party leadership and members. E.P. Jayararjan, CPM leader and convener of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), expressed his lack of awareness regarding the matter in statements to the media. Mohammed Riyas, Veena’s husband and the Public Works Minister, remained silent in response to questions from the media. A.K. Balan, a CPM leader and former minister considered close to Chief Minister Pinarayi, also opted for a similar course of action by not addressing the media’s inquiries.
On January 13, the CPM state committee convened in Thiruvananthapuram; however, participants left the venue without addressing inquiries from the media.
According to reports, a three-member inquiry team, comprising Karnataka Deputy Registrar of Companies Varun B.S., Chennai Deputy Director K M Shanker Narayan, and Pondicherry Registrar of Companies A. Gokulnath, has been appointed. The team is tasked with investigating Exalogic Solutions, CMRL, and the Government-controlled Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC). The Registrar of Companies, Bengaluru, has already conducted an initial inquiry into Exalogic’s activities, revealing numerous rule violations and irregularities. A detailed investigation has been ordered, and the committee is expected to submit its report within four months.
The ongoing inquiry is in response to findings from the Income Tax Interim Settlement Board, operating under Section 245AA of the Income Tax Act, which revealed that Veena Vijayan received monthly payments from CMRL over three years (2017-20), totaling Rs 1.72 crore. In light of this, show cause notices have been sent to KSIDC and CMRL, the latter of which has reportedly submitted a less than satisfactory response before the Registrar of Companies, Ernakulam. KSIDC, on the other hand, has allegedly not responded at all. Additionally, it is noteworthy that KSIDC holds a 13.41 per cent stake in CMRL.
Despite clear statements from CMRL brass asserting that no services were received from Exalogic, the CPM and the State Government insist that payments were made for rendered services.
The CPM now finds itself in a challenging situation as allegations of corruption against the Chief Minister and his family create confusion within the party. The arrival of central agencies to investigate corruption charges against Veena Vijayan intensifies the anxieties felt by Chief Minister Pinarayi, his family, and the party. CPM leaders are evading media queries, and a series of accusations, including gold smuggling, dollar smuggling, and alleged monthly payments from CMRL, have put the government and the party under increased scrutiny. The frequent defenders of the party are now conspicuously silent.
Jnanpith Laureate M T Vasudevan Nair’s subtle criticism adds insult to injury, and PWD Minister Mohammed Riyas, the CM’s son-in-law (husband of Veena Vijayan), acknowledges facing the allegations for an extended period. While CPM and LDF leaders initially welcomed the central agencies’ involvement, they are now notably silent.
If the inquiry reports find the CM and Veena guilty, both will likely have to resign. The news of the investigation is unwelcome for CPM leader and Industries Minister P. Rajeev due to the connection between KSIDC and CMRL.
The CPM resorts to its usual rhetoric, blaming the union government and the BJP for what they term a ‘politically motivated step’ in light of the upcoming parliamentary election. However, Pinarayi Vijayan, his family, and close associates will face challenges in connecting with Veena, Exalogic, CMRL, and KSIDC.