Thiruvananthapuram: In an unprecedented move on Friday, KT Jaleel, a first-time minister in the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government in Kerala, was grilled by the Enforcement Directorate for about three hours regarding allegations of his links to the gold smuggling via the 'diplomatic channel' in Thiruvananthapuram Airport.
However, the central, as well as the state leadership of CPM, stood behind the three-time independent MLA backed by the party.
Hence the opposition was quick to question why the party was giving Jaleel more immunity than senior leader EP Jayarajan, NCP leaders AK Saseendran and Thomas Chandy. This was in reference to the resignations by the leaders from the Cabinet while they faced allegations. "Jayarajan, a Central Committee member, had to stand outside the cabinet after being shamed over alleging nepotism. Then why is the chief minister shielding Jaleel? " asked K Surendran, State BJP President. "When compared to Jaleel, those allegations could be considered insignificant,' said K Muraleedharan, Congress MP.
Reason Behind CPM’s Stand
The CPM central leadership conveyed the message to the state secretariat that Jaleel need not be asked to resign as that could damage the image of the government at a time when the party is preparing for an assembly election and local body elections. The elections are expected to take place after six months.
Who is Jaleel?
He is the Minister for Higher Education, Welfare of Minorities, Wakf and Hajj in the Pinarayi Vijayan led LDF ministry. He was a firebrand leader of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) leader as a student and a chairman of the PSMO College, Thirurangadi Malappuram where he did his graduation and Post Graduation. He later joined the Muslim League and became state president of its Youth Wing, Muslim Youth League. He has a PhD on the topic ‘Role of Variyam Kunjahammed haji and Ali Musliyar in the Malabar Rebellion of 1921’ and is Associate Professor of History in his alma mater.
His popularity reached outside the Muslim League circles as a party youth leader after his fight with Muslim League leader PK Kunhalikkitty in 2004 over the alleged lack of transparency and misuse of tsunami funds.
Following the rebellion, he was ousted from the league in 2005 and the CPM, in a shrewd move, placed him as an independent backed by the party in the 2006 assembly elections. The anti-corruption image of the young leader helped LDF in a big way and it could bag five out of the total 12 seats in the district, which was unimaginable in the Muslim League forte till then. After trouncing Kunhalikkutty in one of the biggest electoral sabotages in state political history, Jaleel turned out to be one of the poster boys of the secular forces in the state.
'Odd Man in'
The presence of Jaleel as one of the five to accompany Pinarayi Vijayan then CPM state secretary during his Nava Kerala Yatra, a state tour in 2009 to rev up the party machinery irked many as they found him as a 'misfit' in the team especially for his former SIMI links. He was not even a primary member of the party, while others in the escort were party central committee members A Vijayaraghavan and E P Jayarajan, and state committee members M V Govindan and T N Seema.
In Pinaryi Cabinet
With the clean image, scholarly speeches and erudite manners, Jaleel continued to repeat the victory in 2011 and 2016. The induction of Jaleel in the Pinarayi cabinet in 2016 was not a big surprise, even though he is not a party member. He was given the portfolio of Local Administration, one of the focus areas of the CPM. However, his portfolio was changed in 2018 and he was given the charge Higher Education after bifurcating the education department, which was a first in the state.
History repeated as Jaleel came under fire after being accused of nepotism by Muslim Youth League leader PK Firoz over the appointment of KT Adeeb, the minister’s cousin, as the general manager of Kerala State Minorities Development Finance Corporation Limited (KSMDFC). Then came the mark gifting controversy as it is alleged one more mark was granted to the B Tech student on the directions of the minister's personal secretary. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala recently claimed the minister intervened in helping a candidate pass an examination conducted by the University.
In July 2020, Jaleel was accused of links to gold smuggling racket which used former UAE consulate staffer to smuggle 30KG gold from UAE to India. Jaleel denied any involvement, saying that the contact with Swapna Suresh, one of the key accused in the case, was regarding a charity work suggested by the UAE Consulate General in Thiruvananthapuram. ' I am not guilty and is ready to face the probe," he said after allegations were raised against him.
On September 11, ED questioned Jaleel from 9:30 am. It lasted for nearly six hours. The agency asked him over the import of Quran boxes from the UAE using the diplomatic baggage route, his connections with the UAE consulate general and Swapna Suresh.
After denying the information on meeting ED to the media, Jaleel posted on Facebook, ‘Only truth will prevail. Nothing, but the truth. Even if the whole world is against you, nothing else would prevail,'. The minister was tight-lipped till News 18 broke the news and the opposition parties, Congress and the BJP took to the streets of Kerala demanding the resignation of the cabinet minister.
He travelled 329 kilometres from his personal residence ''Gazal' in Valanchery in Malappuram braving violent protests including waving black flags and throwing eggs at his cavalcade by Opposition parties at various spots to reach 'Ganga,' his official residence in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday night.