Hawala scam hits Kerala BJP; party forms 3-member probe panel

With many of its leaders being questioned in the highway robbery case involving theft of over ₹3.5 crore, the BJP has asked the panel to furnish a report on the use of funds provided to the party for the recent assembly polls  

The decision comes in the backdrop of an erupting factionalism in the state BJP unit, allegedly caused due to protest over the leadership of state unit chief K Surendran.

With several of its leaders mired in a Hawala money laundering case, the BJP leadership at the Centre has asked a three-member panel to investigate the matter and furnish reports on the use and distribution of funds provided to the party for the recent polls.

The panel comprises former civil servants CV Ananda Bose, Jacob Thomas and E Sreedharan, all BJP members. The trio has been asked to prepare the report after taking inputs from leaders and candidates who participated in the polls.

Incidentally, both Thomas, a former IPS officer and Sreedharan, a former chief of the Delhi Metro Service, had contested the state election on a BJP ticket.

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They were chosen to the panel as despite being partymen as they are not yet associated with any of the faction of the party.

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One of the three members confirmed to Indian Express that the sought report has been submitted. It was reportedly sought by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Rajya Sabha MP Suresh Gopi, too, has been asked to gather information about the alleged scam from state leader.

The decision comes in the backdrop of erupting factionalism in the state BJP unit, especially over the leadership of general secretary (organisation) BL Santosh who party men accuse of favouring the official faction led by state unit chief K Surendran.

The case pertains to a highway robbery of ₹3.5 crore which is suspected to be “unaccounted funds” for the elections. The car’s driver had lodged a complaint a day after the state polls on April 6, stating that a gang of robbers stole ₹25 lakh on the Ernakulam-Thrissur highway while he was transporting it. Police on probing the case, however, found that the amount could be a hawala transaction and could be almost ₹3.5 lakh crore.

While several BJP leaders including Surendran and his aides have been questioned in the matter, as many as 10 people have been arrested in the case.

Dharmarajan, an RSS worker involved in the transport of the money, confessed to police that the cash was meant for the BJP. A leader of Janathipathya Rashtriya Sabha also claimed that her party’s chief CK Jaanu had struck a deal of ₹10 lakh to return to the NDA before the elections. K Sundara, a BSP candidate from Manjeswaram constituency, one of the seats from where Surendran contested the state polls, had also said that he was paid ₹2.5 lakh to withdraw his nomination.

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Even though the state unit has rubbished the allegation, the same nonetheless have left it red-faced.

Former party president Kummanam Rajasekharan, who reportedly has been given the responsibility to save the party’s image, has accused the CPI-M and the Congress of “trying to corner” Surendran.

Senior BJP leaders, however, have attributed the crisis to the intense factionalism in the state unit.

“The intensifying groupism is the reason behind not only the party’s humiliating defeat in the Assembly election but also the recent controversies that have dented the party’s image and credibility,” a senior BJP leader told Indian Express.

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