Kodiyeri Balakrishnan steps aside as CPI(M) secretary in Kerala

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(Adds details) Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 13 (PTI): In a major political development in the ruling CPI(M) in Kerala ahead of the local body polls, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Friday stepped aside as secretary, the highest office within the party at the state level, days after his son was arrested by the ED in a money laundering case linked to a drugs case in Bengaluru.

While the CPI(M) in a statement after the secretariat today maintained that Balakrishnan, who is also a Polit Bureau member, had sought leave for further treatment which had been accepted, the leader of opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala dubbed the move as a delayed dawning of wisdom.

The Congress and BJP have demanded that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should also quit taking cue from Balakrishnan.

The ruling LDF has been facing heat following a string of allegations from the Gold Smuggling case, alleged corruption in the Wadakkanchery Life mission project and the questioning and subsequent arrest of Balakrishnan's son, Bineesh by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Central committee member M V Govindan said Balakrishnan had sought leave as he wanted to undergo further treatment and the party secretariat had acceptedhis plea and grantedpermission to go on leave.

LDF convener A Vijayaraghavan has been given the charge of state secretary, he said.

Asked how long Balakrishnan would be on leave, Govindan said that would depend on the treatment.

On queries relating to Bineesh's arrest, the veteran leader said Balakrishnan has already spoken about matters relating to his son and that will not affect the party in any way.

Sixtyseven-year-old Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, a five time MLA from Thalassery in Kannur district, was first appointed as party secretary on February23, 2015 for three years and subsequently a second term in 2018.

He has also served as Home and Tourism minister in the V S Achuthanandan ministry.

For the Left Democratic Front (LDF), the development comes at a most inopportune time as the three- phased local body polls are commencing from December 8 and hectic preparations are on to garner maximum number of seats in the polls, seen as a litmus test ahead of the assembly elections next year.

Balarkrishnan, considered the second most strong man in the party after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, has been undergoing treatment for cancer for some time.

Thoughhe has gone on treatment earlier also, this is the first time that Balakrishnan has decided to step aside as secretary.

In an embarrassment to the Left party, the Enforcement Directorate in Bengaluru had arrested Bineesh, Balakrishnan's younger son, on October 29 in a money laundering case linked to a drug seizure in Karnataka.

The central agency had alleged that Bineesh had close connection with drug peddler Mohammed Anoop arrested by them and the hotel, Anoop was operating in Bengaluru, was Bineesh's Benami property.

The probe agency had also charged Bineesh with transferring huge amounts of money into Anoop's bank account.

Since Bineesh was taken into custody by the central agency, opposition parties have been up in arms clamouring for Balakrishnan's resignation.

Kanam Rajendran, Secretary of CPI, a major ally of the LDF, refused to comment on the matter, saying it was the internal issue of the Marxist party.

Congress leaders, Ramesh Chennithala and Oommen Chandy said the decision should have been taken much earlier.

'Even though it was too late, the decision was apt,' Chandy, who is also former chief minister, said.PTI UD LGK BN WELCOME BN WELCOME