Thiruvananthapuram : Kerala's ruling Communist Party Of India-Marxist found itself in yet another corruption scandal with allegations of a huge money deal between Deshabhimani, the party's mouthpiece, and a leading lottery agent.
The opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) – led by the Congress – hit out at Deshabhimani in the state assembly Friday for accepting Rs.20 million in the form of a bond from the family members of S. Martin, Kerala's uncrowned lottery king, for development activities of the newspaper.
"Is the bond issued by Deshabhimani like the Reserve Bank of India's bond?" asked leader of opposition Oomen Chandy. "Deshabhimani is fully owned by the CPI-M. We have found that the total bond issued by Deshabhimani is only Rs.32 million and Rs.20 million alone has been purchased by Martin, who is currently in hiding for financial fraud."
The issue was brought to light by leading vernacular daily Mathrubhumi and was then taken up by the opposition.
Ironically, the CPI-M, when it was in the opposition, had accused the then UDF government of going soft on the online lottery mafia and failing to collect dues worth Rs.80 billion from them.
State Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, however, assured the assembly that the guilty would be brought to book.
"I assure you that those cheating the government will not be allowed to go free. You wait and see … everyone will be booked and penalised for violations," Isaac asserted.
But senior CPI-M legislator P. Jayarajan lashed out at the Mathrubhumi daily and accused it of practising 'yellow journalism'. Chandy termed Jayarajan's remark "most unfortunate".
Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan intervened and said: "Mathrubhumi is certainly a newspaper which has played a significant role in the independence movement. What Jayarajan said was without any malice and he was forced to make such a statement because you (Chandy) provoked him."
Congress party leaders later said they would take up the issue of Deshabhimani issuing bonds to Martin with the Reserve Bank of India.
The CPI-M party organ was in the eye of another corruption case last week when K. Venugopal – a senior official at Deshabhimani – was expelled from the CPI-M following allegations that he had taken a bribe of Rs.10 million from a private financial institution.
Last year, police had shut down the financial institution under question. Venugopal allegedly told executives of the firm that he would get the business reopened in return for Rs.10 million.