Rs 82 lakh to share stage with Kerala CM Vijayan in US? Controversy brews
A controversy has arisen surrounding the Loka Kerala Sabha, a convention for Non-resident Keralites, scheduled to take place in the United States this month. Allegations have surfaced that money was being charged from attendees to stand or sit in close proximity to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during the three-day event.
The opposition Congress contended that it was “embarrassing” for the state that amounts ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 was being charged as part of the “offer” to sit or stand close to the Kerala Chief Minister during the conference which will be held in New York on June 9, 10 and 11.
The ruling Left in the state and the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA) denied the allegations of fundraising.
Kerala Finance Minister K N Balagopal told reporters that he was not aware that any fundraising was carried out as it was NORKA which was handling everything.
He said that no wrong activity would be carried out with active knowledge of the state government.
NORKA vice-chairperson P Sreeramakrishnan also denied the allegations.
He said that the Kerala government and NORKA handled the travel arrangements and the event was organised by the people in the US.
He denied that any registration fee was charged or fundraising was carried out in the name of the Chief Minister, but said the amounts may have been collected as “sponsorship” for the 3-day conference.
Sreeramakrishnan said that the opportunity to meet and interact with the Chief Minister would not be governed by who pays how much.
On the other hand, Leader of Opposition in the state assembly V D Satheesan said, “What is happening in the US in connection with the Loka Kerala Sabha is embarrassing for the southern state. It is wrong. It is not in keeping with the principles of Kerala and is not acceptable to the people of the state.”
Satheesan contended that by charging varying amounts, “pravasis are being differentiated based on money”.
“A Communist CM is showing to the world the difference between the haves and have-nots. Rs 82 lakh to sit close to the CM? So those who cannot afford to pay the amounts will remain outside the gates?
“Who permitted this fund collection in the name of the state and the CM? Action should be taken against those involved. The CM should avoid the event for this reason,” he said.
(With agency inputs)