The resignation of Kerala sports and industries minister, EP Jayarajan, following charges of nepotism, is a major blow to the state's LDF government and chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan. The Vijayan government is already fighting an image crisis following a series of political killings in the state. The Jayarajan episode is particularly damaging, given that the Vijayan government came to power in May accusing the Oomen Chandy government of corruption.
Jayarajan has been in news for all the wrong reasons ever since he took over as minister. It was in June this year that the minister first hogged national headlines when he described boxing legend Muhammad Ali as a Kerala sportsman who won a gold medal for the state, when a TV channel called him for reaction after Ali's demise. But, ignorance isn’t a crime. Obviously, it was seen as an innocuous mistake and a fodder for social media jokes.
Next came the Anju Bobby George episode. The Olympian, who was the president of Kerala's sports association, said she was allegedly bullied by Jayarajan, following which George resigned from her post. According to George, Jayarajan accused her with "corruption" charges and being a member of the “other party” — referring to the Congress-led UDF government — which had appointed George as the Council president. This wasn’t funny though. Jayarajan 'insulting' a reputed sports personality like George irked many and raised questions on his very credentials to continue in the post. The state government supported Jayarajan, saying he has every right to question.
This too was forgotten eventually.
But the recent charges of nepotism against the minister, which has now forced him to resign leaves no excuses for Jayarajan and the government. The charges are much more serious in nature and is the first major charge of corruption (if one can call nepotism as an act of corruption) against a minister in the Pinarayai Vijayan government, which will offer ammunition to the Congress party to launch a counter attack on LDF, which had accused them of corruption charges during the polls.
According to Mathrubhumi website, the case pertains to the appointment of Sudhir Nambiar, son of his wife’s sister and Kannur MP PK Sreemathy, as the Managing Director of Kerala State Industrial Enterprises (KSIE) limited. There was pressure from CPM's central leadership to take action against Jayarajan. The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) too have initiated enquiry in the case.
To understand the image crisis Vijayan government is now fighting, one needs to go back to the LDF government’s election slogan, “LDF varum, ellam shariyakum (LDF will come, everything will be fine)" during the assembly polls. The main poll strategy of the LDF was to corner the UDF with multiple charges of corruption and failed policies. This included bar bribery case involving KM Mani and flip flops on liquor policy. The promise of a corruption-free government that will solve the issues common man faced marked the highlight of LDF’s poll campaign. This is where the EP Jayarajan episode will hurt the Vijayan government most. Already, the LDF government is fighting a crisis following a series of political killings in the state.
As Firstpost noted in a recent article, Vijayan government’s silence on the political killings involving RSS-BJP workers and CPM workers has raised questions on the government’s ability to ensure law and order in the state. On Wednesday, 26-year-old Remith, an RSS-BJP worker was hacked to death two days after K Mohanan, CPI(M)'s branch secretary, at Koothuparambu, was murdered in the same manner. So far this year, there have been seven political killings in the state involving, BJP and CPM workers.
The quick resignation of Jayarajan, without delay, is seen as part of the efforts by the Vijayan-government and CPM’s central leadership to limit the damage to the party. Jayarajan is one of the long-term associates of Vijayan from Kannur and a close aide of the CM in the state-government. Jayarajan’s resignation, thus, also marks the fall of a right-hand man of Vijayan that will put pressure on his government.