Even as Kerala is being rocked by protests demanding the resignation of state Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel, the ruling LDF has thrown its weight behind him. The opposition parties have been agitating on the streets for the past week demanding his resignation, after the NIA and the ED summoned Jaleel in connection with the issue of distribution of Quran given by the UAE Embassy.
Pointing out that Jaleel was called in by the NIA only as a “witness'' and not as an accused, the CPI(M) and the LDF maintained that Jaleel need not resign. “ED has already made it clear that it is satisfied by the explanation given by Jaleel. NIA called him just as a witness in the ongoing interrogation. Why should he resign on these grounds,'' asked party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan after the meeting of the CPI(M) state leadership today.
Meanwhile, Customs has registered two cases against the distribution of Quran by the UAE consulate. Jaleel is likely to be questioned by Customs, too, in this regard.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had, yesterday, said that Jaleel was called by the NIA as part of a routine investigation. “It is only natural that an investigative agency will inquire if it receives a complaint. Let there be a truthful investigation to everything. Neither Jaleel nor the government has anything to worry,'' he said.
The NIA had questioned Jaleel yesterday from 10am to 3pm. When asked about the impropriety involving a minister distributing the Quran, the CM said that Jaleel was approached by the UAE consulate because he was the minister for minority welfare. “One can understand the BJP complaining against distributing Quran. But why is IUML attacking Jaleel for distributing Quran, I don’t understand,” CM Vijayan said.
The CPI, too, has come out in support of the minister. In a statement, party state secretary Kanam Rajendran said there is no need for the minister to resign. He said that former chief minister Oommen Chandy did not resign despite facing judicial inquiry related to the solar case.
But the opposition parties—the Congress and the BJP—seemed to be in no mood to buy this argument. They hit the streets across the state demanding Jaleel's resignation, despite the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases in the state. There were violent clashes between police and the protesters. Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and BJP state president K. Surendran reiterated calls for Jaleel’s dismissal from the cabinet on grounds of violating protocol as a minister. Chennithala also demanded CM Vijayan’s resignation, alleging the government had no right to remain in power anymore.
Balakrishnan, on the other hand, maintained that the LDF does not fear these protests, which have no public support. The CPI(M) has also decided to hold state-wide meetings to explain the situation to the public.