The Indian Union Muslim League in Kerala is on a face-saving mission as one of its MLAs has been arrested for cheating and financial fraud on the basis of a series of FIRs filed under various police stations in Kannur and Kasaragod districts.
MC Kamarudheen, the IUML MLA representing Mancheswaram constituency in Kasaragod district, has set a dubious record of being the legislator with 117 FIRs registered against him. However, the IUML is trying to manage the huge embarrassment that the party has been through by counter-allegations that “the arrest is politically motivated” and that the ruling CPI-M “is using the opportunity to settle political scores.”
Kamarudheen is among the seven directors of four companies running the gold business that received ₹132 crore in deposits from the public. Fashion Gold International Private Ltd was the first one which was launched in 2006. In the subsequent years, the team launched three more – Nujum Gold Pvt Ltd (2007), Khamar Fashion Gold Pvt Ltd (2008) and Fashion Ornament Private Ltd (2012). The depositors are offered attractive annual interest. Many fell into the trap – 749 depositors lost their money. As many as 117 depositors – some of whom had invested their entire life savings – filed complaints with the police.
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Though criminal proceedings began more than a month ago, the MLA has not been summoned or interrogated even once. The arrest took place after opposition parties at the local level put pressure by staging a series of protests.
The IUML leadership has been reluctant to disown the MLA and is trying its best to dilute the issue. “We have given him six months to return the deposits,” KPA Majeed, the party’s state secretary, told The Federal. He said there was no question of the party taking over the financial burden. On being asked if the party would sack the MLA, Majeed was evasive. “We will take an appropriate decision when the tenure given to him is over”.
Regardless of the party’s stance, the 117 criminal cases is sure to affect the party’s prospects. “We’ll have to pay a heavy price for this,” said a local IUML leader, who is upset over the state leaders’ continued support for the MLA. “How can we campaign against the CPI-M for the scams in which that party is involved when our own leadership appears to be protecting a person involved in criminal offence,” he questioned. Many like him fear erosion in the secular votes gathered by the Congress-led UDF over years.
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Mancheswaram is IUML’s stronghold. In the by-election held last year, Kamarudheen won by a margin of 7,900 votes against BJP’s Raveesh Thanthri who posed a serious challenge to the IUML. CPI-M’s M Shankara Rai was placed third with a huge margin of 19,000 votes against the BJP candidate.
The IUML has consistently maintained its dominance in the constituency from 1987 till 2001 after which the CPI-M has been pushed to the third place by the BJP. Local CPI-M leaders hope that a significant portion of votes going to the BJP would go be polled in their favour in the next election. “In Mancheswaram, LDF and UDF votes have swung from one party to another. Besides, there are many who have voted for the BJP. These voters would be happy for the government’s uncompromising stand against the MLA”, said a local CPI-M leader, adding Kamarudheen’s arrest would have an effect on the party’s prospects in central and southern Kerala too.