After four months of black-money allegations dogging the Bharatiya Janata Party in Kerala, a case involving Rs 3.5 crore in hawala money and senior state BJP leaders reached an anti-climax on 24 July, with the state police not accusing any party leaders in its chargesheet. The massive sum of money was stolen from a car on the Kodakara highway, in Thrissur district, on 3 April, three days before the state went to polls for the assembly elections. The state police later said that the money was to be distributed to the BJP’s Alappuzha district unit, with the complicity of the state party president, K Surendran, and the state organising secretary, M Ganesh. In the following months, opposition leaders also accused BJP politicians of offering large sums of money ahead of the elections. The BJP ultimately failed to win a single seat in the elections, but has so far escaped any culpability on the numerous black-money allegations.
The Kodakara robbery case was the first in a slew of black-money allegations against the BJP’s Kerala unit. On 2 June, Praseeda Azhikode, the state treasurer of the Janadhipathya Rashtriya Sabha, said that Surendran had paid Rs 10 lakh to the JRS president and tribal leader, CK Janu, who was in talks with the Left Democratic Front around the time, to support the BJP-led National Democatic Alliance in the polls. Azhikode’s allegations came in the wake of a leaked audio clip, purportedly between her and Surendran, in which she informed him that Janu had asked for Rs 10 lakh. Three days later, K Sundara, a Bahujan Samaj Party leader, said that the Kerala BJP had offered him Rs 15 lakh to withdraw his nomination from the Manjeshwar constituency, where he was contesting against Surendran. Sundara announced that he withdrew his nomination, but the BJP only paid him Rs 2.5 lakh and a phone worth Rs 15,000. Surendran ultimately lost the election.
The various allegations suggested serious attempts to compromise the electoral process ahead of the recently concluded assembly polls. The Kerala Police, however, appear to have found little evidence in the Kodakara case, with the chargesheet citing a lack of cooperation from the accused and Rs 1.47 crore yet to be recovered. While the chargesheet categorically states that the money was illegally sourced from Bengaluru through a hawala agent for meeting the BJP’s expenses for the Kerala assembly elections, it does not name a single BJP leader among the accused. Even Dharmarajan, who is described in the chargesheet as the hawala agent responsible for delivering the money to various BJP offices during the investigation, is only named as a witness in the chargesheet. Yet, the case and the allegations raised by Sundara and Azhikode, all in the wake of an electoral rout, have led to disquiet among the state BJP unit.