Mathew Kuzhalnadan, a first-time Congressman, is on a mission to get Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to swallow his words. On Wednesday, he produced digital evidence to prove that what he told the Assembly about Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s daughter was not a lie.
On June 28, when discussing the gold smuggling scandal in the Assembly, an angry chief minister called Kuzhalnadan’s remarks against Veena Vijayan a “blatant lie”.
Kuzhalnadan’s accusation was that before Swapna Suresh’s appointment to the IT department was questioned, the website of Veena’s company, Exalogic, had described one of the directors of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Jaik Balakumar , like his mentor. He said that after the controversy erupted, Exalogic’s website went down in May 2020. When the website returned in late June, Kuzhalnadan said the reference to Jaik was gone.
Clearly, Kuzhalnadan was trying to tie the appointment of Swapna Suresh to the IT department through PwC to the chief minister’s family. Highlighting Veena’s connection to PwC, he was in effect saying that a senior PwC official’s closeness to the chief minister’s daughter led to the global brand’s allegedly undue influence over the senior management of the LDF government.
It was towards the end of his 50-minute speech that the Chief Minister responded to this specific accusation. He prefaced his attack on Kuzhalnadan by saying that many tried to spread lies during the debate. “One of them is Mathew Kuzhalnadan. He feels like he can do anything. For that, he will have to find someone else. What did you think, that I would be very shaken if you was talking about my daughter? What you said was a blatant lie. My daughter never said that such a person was her mentor,” the chief minister said.
When Kuzhalnadan stood up and asked to speak, the chief minister replied, “What do you mean? Is it to repeat this nonsense? Later that day, Kuzhalnadan told the media that he would produce proof of his statements the next day. As promised, armed with a laptop, he called a press conference at Indira Bhavan, the Congress headquarters, in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.
He used a site called webarchive.com to pull dumped Google pages and dig up the Exalogic web page featuring Jaik Balakumar. He said the website allows users to remove unwanted pages. He took over the Exalogic website that existed on May 20, 2020, the day it was reportedly made inaccessible.
In this retrieved page, Veena T is featured as the founder and below under “consultants” are three images. In the middle is Jaik Balakumar, one of PwC’s directors. Kuzhalnadan hovered over Jaik’s image to read the description. “Chicago-based Jaik Balakumar is chief technology and strategy officer at one of the world’s largest companies. Jaik’s involvement with Exalogic is on a very personal level, where he mentors and guides the founders with his incredible knowledge of various aspects of the industry.
Kuzhalnadan said the company’s articles of association state that Exalogic is a one-manager company. “It has only one director and one owner. And his mother, Kamala Vijayan, was nominated as a candidate,” Kuzhalnadan said. “This will make it clear that the founder Jaik mentored and guided was none other than Veena,” he added.
The Congress leader said when the website was restored in late June, Jaik was gone. “Why was it deleted,” he asked. “If the Chief Minister thinks what I have said is nonsense, I challenge him to register a complaint against the company (webarchive.org) for writing such outrageous things on the website of his daughter,” he added.
And the forgotten bag
Kuzhalnadan also repeated the other issue he raised during the gold smuggling debate on June 28. “The chief minister should respond if he received any baggage through diplomatic channels when he was in the UAE,” he said.
The Chief Minister, in a written reply to the Assembly, had said that he had not forgotten any bags during his trip to the United Arab Emirates in 2016. However, his then Principal Secretary, Mr Sivasankar, while being questioned by customs, said the chief minister’s office contacted Swapna Suresh to urgently transport a bag through diplomatic channels to the chief minister of the UAE.
Sivasankar said the bag contained souvenirs to present to foreign dignitaries, but Swapna Suresh in his 164(5) statement before the magistrate alleged that the bag contained foreign currency.
Kuzhalnadan wanted to know why the chief minister used diplomatic immunity when there were other ways to carry a bag.