Hours after State Finance Minister Thomas Issac on Wednesday went hammer and tongs against Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan shot off a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) that the model code of conduct which is in force is being torpedoed at the instance of some Union Ministers.
“The Enforcement Directorate has recently been repeatedly calling officials of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) which includes ladies. It is pertinent to note that this has come close on the heels of the speech made by the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at Kochi on February 28 attacking the functioning of the KIIFB and also the budget of the state government,” said Vijayan.
“Yesterday the electronic media had carried a news that the chief executive officer of KIIFB and another official has been asked to appear before the ED, but no such summons was received by these officials. The aim is to create a smear campaign against the officials and the state Government. The rules laid down for conduct of free and fair elections are being contravened and this warrants intervention by the Election Commission of India so that agencies like ED follow the statute in letter and spirit and act in a politically neutral manner,” said Vijayan.
Earlier in the day Issac told the media that she (Sitharaman) is leading from the front and using her officials for political needs. What’s happening is a clear violation of the election norms. “We are not going to be cowed down by such intimidatory tactics. The conspiracy of the ED against the KIIFB has been going on for a while. Does anyone know that the head of the ED in Kerala is the son of a top BJP leader from Rajasthan,” Issac said.
“I want to make it very clear that strong resistance will be put up against the present arm twisting tactics of the ED. Please do not see people here as an extension of the Congress party in Rajasthan. We will deal with the ED with the help of the people. The ED is out to play spoilsport to the development plans of Kerala and we will strongly resist any move to put our officials under duress,” Issac added.
The KIIFB is a government-owned financial institution formed to mobilise funds for infrastructure development from outside the state revenue, and numerous projects are assigned funds from it.
The KIIFB had gone ahead by floating masala bonds following which the ED has registered a case against it under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), a move that has irked Issac .
Incidentally, while taking part in a rally of state BJP President K. Surendran in Kochi last week, Sitharaman had slammed Issac for the role of KIIFB in his state budget and even pointed out the remarks the CAG had made.
With the crucial Assembly polls scheduled to be held on April 6 and the CPI-M led Left government making every effort to ensure it retains power, the coming days will tell to what extent the war of words between the BJP and the CPI-M top brass will go. Union Home Minister Amit Shah is scheduled to visit Kerala later this week.