Kerala BJP's clean image likely to suffer as internal probe reveals corruption allegations
BJP's clean image has suffered a dent in Kerala after an internal probe committee report found members of the Kerala BJP unit taking money to provide Medical Council of India recognition
BJP's Kerala bloc has suffered a major political setback as a leaked internal probe report reveals that party leaders took bribe from a private medical college in the state to provide recognition from the Medical Council of India.
A two-member probe panel set up by Kerala BJP chief Kummanam Rajasekharan has revealed that RS Vinod, state convener of BJP’s cooperative cell and a yuva morcha leader, has allegedly taken Rs 5.60 crore from the owner of a medical college to be paid to Medical Council of India authorities in Delhi.
The leaked probe report, a copy of which is in possession with Firstpost, reveals that Vinod allegedly paid this money to a Satish Nair, Delhi-based middleman, through a hawala dealer near Kochi. A commission was also paid to a hawala dealer to handover money in New Delhi, the report said.
The report has left many red in the party, which is still enjoying only one representation in the 140-member state Assembly. The setback has come at a time when the party is eyeing to make inroads in the state under the strict guidance of its national president Amit Shah by planning several reach out programmes.
Shah had visited Kerala for a three-day visit in June and had held meetings with state leaders to strengthen the party base ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The probe was ordered after R Shaji, chairman of SR Educational and Charitable Trust in Varkala, complained to the party in mid-May.
Shaji, who is also a Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) leader alleged that he had paid Rs 5.60 crore to Vinod to get MCI sanction for his medical college. BDJS is state political party, which was formed ahead of the Kerala Assembly Elections in 2016 and is an ally with the BJP-led front in Kerala.
Shaji, in his testimony in the report, alleged that Vinod told him that Satish (the Delhi middleman) could influence MCI and that he had been instrumental in ensuring MCI recognition for several medical colleges.
In the report, Shaji also alleged that one Rakesh Sivaraman, posing as a private secretary to the BJP state president, had introduced the middleman to him through Vinod.
Shaji had told the committee that Vinod had demanded Rs 17 crore for securing MCI recognition.
It was only when the MCI came to inspect the college — contrary to the middleman’s assurance — that Shaji realised that the money he had paid had failed to reach MCI authorities, the probe committee report says.
Surprisingly, Vinod admitted to the committee of taking money from Shaji, however, he had claimed that the deal was part of his "business" and not related to the party. The probe committee said that it was shocked at the stand of BJP leader.
Meanwhile, BJP's former state president V Muraleedharan told Firstpost that he was unaware of the probe report. Whereas, party spokesperson MS Kumar informed that BJP will come out with an official release to media after a meeting on 22 July.
However, around 2pm on Thursday, Kummanam Rajasekharan, the state president, brushed aside all media reports and allegations in a Facebook post. "Media reports on MCI sanctions are just rumours. BJP is committed to wipe out corruption. That’s why when an allegation was raised, we initiated a probe. The follow up steps will be discussed at apt party forums. Media reports are surprising ones. If we find that BJP leaders are linked with corruption, action will be taken without any hesitation. The party doesn’t have anything to do with the current allegations," he stated.
KM Shajahan, a political observer in Kerala, informed that this "scam" would cost the BJP a lot, which is already lacking a strong leadership to make inroads even though the Left and Congress are failing at many places.
"With what face will the leaders be able to approach the people and its own workers? It is their own party panel report stating that there leaders have taken bribe," Shajahan said.
BJP state party general secretary MT Ramesh is also mentioned in the report even though Shaji didn't name him in the complaint.
The report reveals that Ramesh has categorically denied the allegations stating that he was approached twice by somebody asking help to get accreditation but he had turned them away saying that he can’t do anything.
Firstpost’s attempt to get in touch with Ramesh went in vain. Ramesh has not responded to the calls or text messages from Firstpost. The BJP spokesperson in the state too declined to comment on the issue. Another BJP leader that Firstpost contacted also did not wish to comment.
Advocate A Jayasankar, a political observer, told Firstpost that the findings of the report shows that BJP is not a clean party as it claims to be. “It has created an illusion it's against corruption. But this expose will damage its reputation as a so-called corruption-free party up to an extent," Jayasankar said. He added that the current expose will also damage the party’s national image as it's being raised in the Parliament by the Left.
According to Jayasankar, BJP will not be able to face the people without expelling or at least initiating disciplinary actions against the leaders involved in graft. "Some sort of action is needed to damage control," he added.
But this is not the first time corruption allegations have emerged against Kerala BJP leaders. During Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime, it was alleged that the Kerala BJP leaders had accepted crores of rupees to allot petrol pumps.
According to media reports, a preliminary investigation had revealed corruption to the tune of nearly Rs 18 crore in the petrol pump scam.
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