In a setback to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's government, the Kerala Higher Education Minister, KT Jaleel, today resigned days after the state Lokayukta held him guilty of "nepotism, abuse of power, favouritism" and stated that the "minister should not continue in his post".
Mr Jaleel, who is also the state Minority Welfare, Waqf, and Haj Minister, put up a social media post announcing his resignation, but also hit out at an alleged "media syndicate", along with the Congress and Indian Union Muslim League, for a "witch hunt of two years" against him.
"Even as the petition against the Lokayukta order is before the Kerala High Court, I have submitted my resignation to the Chief Minister as a mark of political integrity," he wrote on his Facebook page. Mr Jaleel has, meanwhile, challenged the Lokayukta's report in the Kerala High Court.
His resignation comes amid a heated election season in the state with polling held on April 6 and the results set to be declared on May 2.
The report by Justice Cyriac Joseph, the Lokayukta, and his deputy, Justice Harun-Ul-Rashid, states: "The action taken by KT 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 the 5th respondent, who is his second cousin, eligible for the post of General Manager."
Mr Jaleel was earlier probed by three central agencies as a "person of interest" in connection with the gold smuggling case and over alleged evasion of duty and violations of the Foreign (Contribution) Regulations Act related to consignments of dates and copies of the Holy Quran imported by the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
"That nothing has been proven against me despite being questioned by three probe agencies validates my public life," he wrote today on Facebook.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala of the Congress, however, questioned the delay in his resignation.
"If it was about political uprightness, why did KT Jaleel take three days to resign? It was not about political uprightness but instead having no other way out," Mr Chennithala asked speaking to reporters. "Where did this morality go when the law minister defended him saying there wasn't any need for resignation. Now, holding on to political morality is just a way to deceive people."