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Highway robbery sets off a political storm in Kerala

Senior leaders of the state BJP are yet to respond to the allegation while a leader of Loktantrik Yuva Janata Dal, the youth wing of Sharad Yadav's Loktantrik Janata Dal, submitted a petition to the Enforcement Directorate Saturday seeking a probe.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: April 25, 2021 7:15:38 am
Kerala Assembly Elections 2021, Kerala elections, Sabarimala temple, Sabarimala temple issue, kerala BJP, LDF, UDF, BJP, Pinarayi Vijayan, Indian ExpressKerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala and BJP state president K Surendran. (Express Photo)

A highway robbery of Rs 25 lakh from a car in Kerala early on April 3, three days before the state elections, is at the centre of an intensifying political storm with the ruling Left Front and an ally describing the looting as a “drama” that was allegedly “enacted” by local BJP leaders for “sharing unused election funds”.

Senior leaders of the state BJP are yet to respond to the allegation while a leader of Loktantrik Yuva Janata Dal, the youth wing of Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal, submitted a petition to the Enforcement Directorate Saturday seeking a probe.

Saleem Madavoor, national president of Loktantrik Yuva Janata Dal, claimed in his complaint to the ED that the looted amount was part of the BJP’s election fund for southern districts. “The actual plundered amount was Rs 10 crore, of which Rs 3.5 crore was meant for Ernakulam district,” the petition states.

CPI (M) state secretary and LDF convener A Vijayaraghavan said the Election Commission should probe the alleged “hawala dealings” of the BJP. “Looting of election funds is unprecedented in Kerala… It has to be suspected that a section of BJP leaders has a role in that looting racket. The looted money is only a tip of the black money the BJP has spent in the Kerala elections,’’ he said in a statement.

According to police, a complaint registered by the car driver stated that Rs 25 lakh was looted by an unidentified gang that waylaid the vehicle on the highway from Thrissur to Kochi. The complaint, which was registered a day after voting on April 7, stated that the money belonged to A K Dharmarajan, a businessman from Kozhikode who was following the vehicle with the cash in a separate car.

Thrissur Rural SP G G Poonguzhali said police have identified nine persons involved in the robbery. “We have deputed teams in Kerala and Tamil Nadu to nab them. Many of them have criminal backgrounds. It is only after arresting this gang can we probe who their handlers are and their political links, if any. We have to also ascertain the amount missing,’’ she said.

Police sources told The Indian Express that Dharmarajan claimed to have been taking the money to Kochi for investments in real estate. Madavoor, however, claimed in his petition to the ED that the complainant is “hiding the actual amount” and that the money “came from Karnataka”.

BJP state president K Surendran, vice-president Sobha Surendran and Union Minister V Muraleedharan did not respond to several calls made by The Indian Express seeking their comments on the allegation. Surendran’s office said he was not attending calls.

When contacted, Dharmarajan reiterated that he was not travelling in the car in which the money was kept and that the case was registered on the driver’s complaint. He refused to speak about the loss of money, saying police have directed him not to speak to the media.

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