The sexual harassment case registered by the Maharashtra police against the son of Kerala state secretary of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has put the party that came to power in Kerala with a promise to protect women in a tight spot at a time when it is trying hard to recover from the humiliating defeat it suffered in the recent Lok Sabha elections.
The Oshiwara police in Mumbai has booked Binoy Balakrishnan, elder son of the CPM leader, on the charges of rape under Section 376 and breach of trust and cheating under section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) based on a complaint lodged by a 33-year-old woman from Mira Road in the city on 13 June.
The woman, who hails from Bihar, said that Binoy, who met her at a dance bar in Dubai, had sexually exploited her regularly from 2009 to 2015 by promising to marry her. She also claimed that she had an eight-year-old son from the relationship and Binoy had borne their maintenance till 2015.
Binoy, who runs a business in Dubai, has refuted the charges and termed them as part of an attempt to blackmail him. He said that he had filed a complaint in this connection with the Kannur range Inspector General of Police in April this year. He has submitted a letter the woman had written to him in December 2018 demanding a sum of Rs.5 crores to the police to back his claim.
A report in The Times of India sources close to the woman said that she had sought the money on the advice of her lawyer for the boy's upbringing. She claimed that she had incontrovertible proof to show that Binoy is the father of her child. She has challenged him to face a DNA test to prove if he claim otherwise.
According to the report, the complainant has already submitted her son's birth certificate and passport containing the name of Binoy as his father, their joint photographs and bank statements showing e-transfer of money to her every month between 2010 and 2015 as maintenance to support her allegations.
Senior party leaders have sought to distance from the case by either maintaining silence or terming the case as an individual issue that the accused has to fight himself. This is contrary to the guidelines issued by the fourth plenum of the party held in Palakkad in 2013, which say that the party cadres and their kin should lead a communist way of life and must set an example for others.
The case is personally damaging to the party chief since he is being mentored as the successor of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who has already started facing criticism from within the party for his autocratic style of functioning. A major section of the party believes that his inept handling of the Sabarimala temple issue was responsible for the debacle that the party has suffered in the Lok Sabha election.
The opposition parties are not willing to allow the party to run away from the issue as they believe Binoy has flourished in his life by making use of the positions held by his father in the party and the government. The Congress-led opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Bharatiya Janata Party are gearing up to take the issue to the people.
Binoy had started his career as vice president of Dubai-based RP Group, headed by NRI businessman from Kollam Ravi Pillai when his father was Home and Tourism Minister in the state under the 2006-11 LDF government led by V S Achuthanandan. His appointment had raised eyebrows among people in Kerala since he did not have the required qualification and experience to hold such a position. Binoy later launched his own business in the emirate.
His tourism-related business ran into trouble last year when his Arab partner slapped a case of financial fraud to the tune of Rs 13 crores against him. The case was settled out of court. The source of money paid for settling the case is still a mystery. Opposition parties believe that Binoy may have been bailed out by businessmen, who have stakes in the state.
Ravi Pillai, who patronised family of several political leaders in the state, had reasons to oblige them since he had faced several hurdles in his businesses in Kerala. His attempt to develop his hotel at Kovalam as a premium property had suffered a setback with conservationists coming out against his bid to acquire the archaeologically-valuable Kovalam. It was made possible with the support of the LDF government.
Environmentalists also see red in burying a case against his group for setting up a hotel at Kollam in violation of the coastal zone regulations. The successive governments in the state have been sitting on a direction of the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) for demolishing parts of the hotel complex that were constructed illegally since 2015.
Jothikumar Chamakkala, spokesman of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) says Kodiyeri Balakrishnan or the party cannot wash their hands of the criminal activities of the kin of the leaders as they owe their growth to their political clout.
"Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is the son of a primary teacher, who had no known source of income other than his meagre salary. The people have a right to know where his children had got the money to launch businesses worth crores. We cannot blame people if they believe that they have amassed wealth by misusing the position of their father, who had sustained the family with the help of the allowances he got from the party," says Chamakkala.
"His children treaded the bourgeoisie life as Kodiyeri had failed to lead them in a communist way. The party which preaches probity in public life has the responsibility to follow it in its spirit. If the party believes in what it preaches it should ensure that the case against the party chief's son is dealt according to the law. On the contrary, the CPM is trying to shield the guilty," says Chamakkala.
He sees the complaint lodged by Binoy with the Kannur IG itself as an attempt to sabotage the case with the help of the power wielded by his father. The Congress leader suspects that it was intended to bring the complainant to Kerala and prevent her from proceeding against Binoy legally.
"If Binoy was convinced that the woman was trying to blackmail him, he should have taken up the issue with the Maharashtra police. The Kerala police have no jurisdiction in the case as the incidents related to the case have occurred outside the state," says Chamakkala.
Political observers feel that any attempt by the CPM to shield Binoy will hasten the party's downfall. N Pearson, a Left-leaning political analyst, views the case as yet another example of party deviating from its policy and ideology. "The only thing that makes the communist parties stand apart from the rest is the moral high ground it has maintained in public life. If it is lost, the party will become irrelevant. Lakhs of people have joined the party not because they were influenced by Marxist theories, but because of the simple life led by the leaders. The current crop of leaders are interested only in power. This will sound death knell to the party," said Pearson.
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Updated Date: Jun 19, 2019 16:03:11 IST