Leading charge against Pinarayi Vijayan, daughter is first-time Cong MLA, Rahul Gandhi’s pick

As the CPI(M) and the Congress prepare to go head to head in the Puthupally bye-election in Kerala early next month, Congress MLA Mathew Kuzhalnadan has opened another battlefront on the sidelines.

The Congress MLA last year took aim at Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s family in the 2020 gold smuggling case and is now back in the headlines following his salvos against Vijayan’s daughter Veena and her Information Technology firm Exalogic Solutions. The first-time legislator, who represents the Muvattupuzha constituency in Ernakulam district, upped the ante after a report by the Income-Tax Department’s Interim Board for Settlement of the Direct Taxes said Exalogic received Rs 1.72 crore from Kerala-based Cochin Minerals and Rutile Limited (CMRL) over three years for IT and consultancy services despite not rendering any services.

The 45-year-old legislator, who has earlier said he is against “compromise politics” in Kerala between the rival parties, has dared the CPI(M) to react to his allegation that Veena received political funding because of her father’s position. The CPI(M) and the government retorted by targeting Kuzhalnadan and launching a probe into his assets. His property has been surveyed for alleged reclamation of paddy fields, while a resort in the high ranges has been brought under the scanner for alleged violation of the Land Assignment Act. The CPI(M) has alleged that the legislator’s election affidavit does not reflect his actual assets. Adding to Kuzhalnadan’s woes, the Kerala Bar Council has sought an explanation from him on a complaint that he is operating a business — the resort — in violation of the Bar Council of India norms.

The Congress MLA, who holds a PhD in International Trade Law from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and is a partner at multi-disciplinary law firm KMNP Law, joined the party’s student in the state, the Kerala Students’ Union (KSU), while pursuing a law degree in the state capital. He served as KSU state vice president and was picked by Rahul Gandhi to be the Youth Congress state general secretary. Kuzhalnadan went on to become one of the top youth leaders from Kerala on the national level. He served as the general secretary of the Youth Congress national committee and later became the state president of the All India Professional Congress, a body of professionals in the party.

In the 2021 Assembly elections, Kuzhalnadan was one of the young candidates chosen when the Congress leadership decided to bring about a generational change. He defeated the CPI’s sitting MLA Eldo Abraham to win Muvattupuzha.

At present, a general secretary of the Congress state committee, Kuzhalnadan conducted a maha panchayat last year to listen to the people of his constituency. The MLA also goes to all panchayats in his constituency once in three months to listen to people’s complaints. “A legislator should go in search of its people, not otherwise. Hence, I am conducting this micro-level programme,” Kuzhalnadan said.

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