The Opposition Congress in Kerala on Friday alleged that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan avoided responding to eight matters, including the gold smuggling case, raised by the United Democratic Front in the Legislative Assembly on August 24, PTI reported.

“The chief minister shied away from responding to any of the eight allegations raised in the Assembly, but was ridiculing the entire House by speaking on irrelevant topics,” Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Ramesh Chennithala alleged. “Instead of responding to questions raised, he was reading out a prepared speech for 3 hours and 45 minutes on various topics but relevant ones.”

Apart from suggesting a government hand in the gold smuggling case, the Opposition had also alleged corruption in the Life Mission Project for building homes for families that lost their dwellings during last year’s floods. However, a no-confidence motion, moved the United Democratic Front, against the Left Democratic Front government was defeated by 87 votes to 40 on August 24.

‘Opposition was abusive towards chief minister’

Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that Chief Minister Vijayan had replied to all questions the Congress raised. However, they shouted slogans against him using abusive language, he alleged. “The government does not have any issues with giving any reply,” he said. “But they were not ready to listen to anything. Instead they resorted to sloganeering, using abusive words against the chief minister in the Assembly.”

Chief Minister Vijayan had said on Thursday that he had repeatedly asked Opposition legislators to listen to his reply, instead of shouting slogans, but to no avail.

Gold smuggling scam

On July 5, gold weighing 30 kg concealed in imported plumbing material was seized by customs officials upon inspection of an air cargo consignment addressed to the Consular General of the United Arab Emirates in Thiruvananthapuram district. Officials valued the gold at Rs 15 crore.

The customs department arrested one Sarith PS on the same day for allegedly facilitating the smuggling of the gold in diplomatic baggage from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai.

Sarith PS and another accused, Swapna Suresh, worked at the consulate-general’s office until seven months ago. Later, the state government had appointed Suresh as marketing liaison officer of the Space Park project under the IT Department’s Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited. Her contract was terminated after the allegations surfaced.

M Sivasankar was also removed as the principal secretary of Vijayan after Opposition leaders questioned his alleged association with the three accused.

On July 22, the Enforcement Directorate filed a money laundering complaint in the case. The Enforcement Case Information Report, equivalent to a first information report, will enable the directorate to attach the properties of the accused.

On August 10, a special NIA court dismissed Suresh’s bail plea. The NIA has told the court that proceeds from the smuggling might be used for terror funding.

A fire broke out at the Kerala Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram on August 25, which the Opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party alleged to be a conspiracy. A number of files were destroyed in the blaze.