News Karnataka
Saturday, April 01 2023

Former Kerala Minister arrested in graft case; Oppn cries foul

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Kochi: The state Vigilance Department on Wednesday arrested the former PWD Minister and senior legislator of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) V.K. Ebrahim Kunju in the Palarivattom flyover collapse case.

He was arrested from the hospital where he had been admitted a day earlier.

Earlier in the day, the Vigilance department sleuths raided Kunju’s house. His wife informed them that he was admitted in a private hospital, but unconvinced by her reply, the police entered the house and searched the house.

Later, the sleuths reached the private hospital where he was undergoing treatment and recorded his arrest.

Kunju has earlier been questioned a few times by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) over a case of graft in the construction of the Palarivattom flyover, which was ordered to be rebuilt and the work has commenced.

He is named as the fifth accused in the case.

Built at a cost of Rs 42 crore during former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s regime, the 750-metre flyover was supposed to last for over 100 years. It was opened in October 2016 and within three years the flyover started crumbling and had to be closed.

The flyover was built by the Delhi-based RDS Projects for the state-owned Roads and Bridges Development Corporation. KITCO was the supervision consultant for the project.

Kunju, was the Minister when the faulty flyover was constructed.

Already four arrests have been made in this case and after being in jail, all the four were released on bail.

Those arrested earlier included the project director Sumit Goyal of the RDS Projects, former Public Works Department Secretary T.O. Sooraj, Benny Paul who represented the KITCO, and M.T. Thankachen from the Roads and Bridges Development Corporation.

Sources say that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who has been cornered on all fronts in various scams and allegations, has decided to take the fight into the opposition camp now.

Vijayan has been facing the heat ever since his secretary and senior IAS official M.Sivasankar, presently under judicial custody after the Enforcement Directorate arrested him on October 29. Besides this case, the son of CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan — Bineesh Kodiyeri — was also arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act by the ED and is now in the custody of the Narcotics Control Bureau in Bengaluru.

Balakrishnan, had to relinquish the post last week, after the Congress and the BJP agitated seeking Balakrishnan and Vijayan’s resignation.

The top CPI-M leadership, including the current secretary and also the Left front convenor A.Vijayaraghavan have been dropping enough hints that a few arrests of the top opposition legislators was on the cards.

Vijayan could be in more trouble as the opposition has decided to go hammer and tongs against him in the upcoming local body polls to be held in three phases starting December 8.

Senior Congress legislator P.T. Thomas said the action against Ebrahim was part of the tactics of the Vijayan government to settle scores. He said the ruling party has been driven to the wall, in the various scams and allegations, which are being probed by various national agencies.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front, the principal opposition in Kerala, on Wednesday cried foul in the manner in which the state Vigilance Department arrested Ebrahim Kunju in the Palarivattom flyover collapse case.

Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy under whose tenure the construction of the controversial flyover started said, “This is nothing but politically motivated as all know that the Vijayan government is cornered not just on allegations, but on facts. It was under my tenure that 70 per cent of the work on this flyover was completed and 30 per cent of the work was done under this government and when they inaugurated it, they claimed it as their achievement,” said Chandy.

“This government is also responsible as the first signs of problems started when the surfaced road on top of the bridge came out. It was a team of IIT Chennai engineers who studied the bridge and they recommended a load test. But the Pinarayi Vijayan government went in appeal to the apex court against conducting this test and went ahead for rebuilding the bridge.

“What’s baffling is the very same company which built this bridge has been given over Rs 1,000 crore work in other parts of the state. Why did this government not blacklist this company? Also Kunju is being charged because he released mobilisation advance to the company, which is a normal procedure done by all,” added Chandy.

The IUML leader and Lok Sabha member P.K. Kunhalikutty soon after a meeting of his party leaders said this is a fine balancing act done by Vijayan because they think that to cover up their numerous wrong doings, which they are facing, they can effect an arrest like this.

“This is 100 per cent political vendetta as we all heard the Left convenor A.Vijayaraghavan say a few days back that a few opposition leaders will be arrested and that has happened. We knew that this was round the corner. The probe in this case was over months back and there are procedures for arrests and all rules have been flouted. This is a shameless act of settling political scores,” said Kunhalikutty.

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