Thiruvananthapuram/Alappuzha: The Congress-led UDF opposition on Wednesday accused the CPI(M) of being behind the drug mafias in the state after a vehicle belonging to one of its local members was caught smuggling pan masala worth around Rs one crore.
The party member, Shanawas, was subsequently suspended by CPI(M) pending an internal enquiry against him.
In the wake of the party decision, Shanawas came to the fore and told the media today that he had no idea that the vehicle he had rented out was going to be used to smuggle pan masala.
Shanawas -- who is a municipal councillor and the chairperson of the Alappuzha Municipality's Welfare Work Standing Committee -- said that he has been suspended pending an enquiry by the party into the allegations against him.
He said that the charges levelled against him by the party were that he did not disclose purchase of the vehicle, which was used in the illegal activity, and he did not exercise proper caution while giving it out on rent.
"However, the party has not said I had anything to do with the smuggling of pan masala. The party is looking into all aspects of the matter," he told reporters in Alappuzha.
Kerala Fisheries Minister Saji Cheriyan said there is no evidence before the party that he was involved in the smuggling activity.
"We are looking into the matter as he is an area committee member. But there is no evidence of wrongdoing by him. A person has been appointed to carry out the internal enquiry. Police are also investigating the matter.
"He has been suspended as being an area committee member, he did not exercise proper caution while giving his vehicle on rent," the minister said.
Shanawas claimed that he was an honest man, who prays five times a day, runs a legitimate business of laying optical cables for some telecom companies and therefore, has no need for resorting to drug smuggling to earn a living.
"I do not need such sources of revenue. The police are investigating it. The party is also looking into it. The party inquiry will be over within 90 days and my innocence will be proved and I will be back," he said.
On the other hand, the Congress-led UDF opposition said that while the Left government runs a state-wide anti-drug campaign, its own party members were allegedly indulging in such illegal activities.
Leader of Opposition in the state assembly V D Satheesan, in a release, alleged that Shanavas' purported role in the pan masala smuggling indicates that CPI(M) leaders were behind the drug trafficking mafias in the state.
He further contended that the opposition had raised the issue in the state assembly last month as well as earlier and had demanded strong action against drug mafias.
Pan masala worth around Rs one crore was seized a few days ago from Kollam district of the state from a vehicle which was owned by Shanawas.
He claimed before the media that he had recently bought the vehicle and had given it on rent to one of the accused on the basis of a recommendation by one of his acquaintances.
Beyond that he had no connection with what had happened, he said, and added that he now realises he should have been more careful.
On being asked how he sees the reports about an ED probe being possibly launched against him based on complaints by some of his party colleagues, he said that he has nothing to hide as he pays all taxes on time.
He said if he is proved wrong or guilty of any offence, he would accept the consequences with open arms.
Shanawas also said that actions of some individuals cannot be seen as that of the entire party and he accepts the decisions taken by CPI(M) in the instant case.
He, however, said that he regrets the fact that the party was embarrassed on account of his name being dragged into the controversy. PTI