KT Jaleel, the Minister for Higher Education and Minority Welfare in Pinrayai Vijayan’s cabinet recently tendered his resignation following the Lok Ayukta verdict of April 9 where he was indicted for the unfair appointment of his close relative K.T. Adeeb as general manager of the Kerala State Minorities Development Finance Corporation in 2018. In the order, the Lok Ayukta pointed out that the minister was not fit to continue as he had violated the oath of office by indulging in nepotism and favouritism.
“The action by Jaleel to change the qualifications for the post of general manager in the corporation to add ‘BTech with PGDBA’ also as a qualification for the post of general manager was to make his second cousin eligible for the post,” said the order. It also noted that the change in qualification was effected without the recommendation of the corporation and, without it, Adeeb could not have become eligible to apply for the post.
“Those who were vying for my blood can relax for a while. This is to inform you that I have handed over my resignation letter to the Chief Minister,” Jaleel’s said in an FB post after resigning.
While the noose was tightening around Jaleel’s neck since 2018 when the allegations first surfaced, it was state CM Pinarayi Vijayan who was acting as the guardian angel of Jaleel and protecting him from the heat.
A former member of the now-banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), a radical Islamic organisation formed in the 1980s, and a former All India Youth League convenor, Jaleel had all the right credentials to join CPI (M) and Vijayan realised his potential and exploited it to full use.
The 53-year-old former SIMI leader helped the Marxists in making inroads into the conservative Muslim-dominated Malappuram region after he defeated Indian Union Muslim League strongman P.K. Kunhalikutty in the 2006 assembly poll in the Kuttipuram constituency.
Slowly and steadily, the legislator from Thavannur became an integral part of Pinarayi’s chosen team. So much so was the increasing camaraderie between Vijayan and Jaleel that the latter was picked by Pinarayi to become minister of local bodies when he became chief minister in 2016.
Apart from the appointment of his niece, Jaleel’s name has also propped up in the infamous ‘Gold Smuggling case’ that has become Vijayan’s albatross around the neck lately. Jaleel’s name was found in prime accused Swapna Suresh’s phone call list and immediately the minister was called by the NIA for questioning.
According to media reports, it is the curious case of the Qurans that were brought in from the UAE, allegedly at the behest of Jaleel that have sparked suspicion of the central investigative agency.
Around 250 packets of the Quran were brought by the UAE consulate through diplomatic baggage in March 2020 and the total weight was about 4,470 kilogram. Of this, around 1,000 were found to be transported using a Kerala government agency’s vehicle to various places, including Malappuram – again under Jaleel’s supervision. However, considering the weight of one Quran, the 250 odd packets might have contained around 7,750 Qurans.
While Jaleel justified the acceptance of Quran and Ramadan relief kits from the UAE consulate in Kerala as customary and cultural practices, the investigation agencies were probing if gold was smuggled under the pretext of bringing the Qurans.
Even then, it was the Kerala CM that managed to divert the attention from Jaleel by sacrificing inconsequential government employees that are merely small players in the larger scheme of ‘economic terrorism’ that was taking place by smuggling the gold into the country.
Vijayan tried his level best to shield his trusted lieutenant but the political pressure of the election season meant he had to let go of his hand from the wheel and give up Jaleel, albeit momentarily by asking him to resign. If it was not for the elections, Vijayan would have gone to any untoward lengths to protect his stripling.