Kerala CPI-M to return lottery agent’s money


Thiruvananthapuram : Responding to the opposition criticism, Kerala's ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Saturday decided to return Rs.20 million its mouthpiece Deshabhimani had accepted from the family of a lottery agent.

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Deshabhimani was accused of accepting the amount in the form of a bond from the family members of S. Martin, often called Kerala's uncrowned lottery king, for development activities of the newspaper.

The issue was brought to light by leading local daily Mathrubhumi and was then taken up by the opposition.

At the end of the first day of the two-day CPI-M meet here Saturday, the state committee said in a statement that it had decided to return the controversial payment and added that the state secretariat will investigate the matter.

The 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.

The Congress has demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the charges.

"We demand that (CPI-M general secretary) Prakash Karat, who is here to take part in the party meeting, write to the central government demanding a CBI probe into these corruption charges," state Congress president Ramesh Chennithala told reporters here earlier in the day.

What has added to the controversy is that E.P. Jayarajan, general manager of Deshabhimani, has given two contradictory statements on the Rs.20 million taken from Martin.

In a written rejoinder to Mathrubhumi's report, Chennithala said the money was collected through the sale of bonds. But a day later, he said the money collected was an advance payment for advertisements.

"(Chief Minister V.S.) Achuthanandan's silence is a shame because as leader of opposition (2001-2006), he had accused our government on going soft on collecting arrears from the lottery mafia. People of Kerala would like to hear what Achuthanandan has to say on these corruption issues," said Chennithala.

He said that the corruption cases could also be attributed to the ongoing feud within the CPI-M Kerala unit – between Achuthanandan and state unit secretary Pinnarayi Vijayan.

Venugopal, who was expelled from the party, is said to be a close associate of Vijayan.