Middle East businessmen caught in Kerala CPI-M feud?

Thiruvananthapuram, May 26 (IANS) Two prominent Middle East-based businessmen who hail from Kerala appear to be caught in the factional feud of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in Kerala.

The Ernakulam unit of the CPI-M has accused M.A. Yusuf Ali, owner of the Emke Group, of encroaching upon the government land for his Rs.1600-crore Lulu Shopping Mall project here that opened in March this year.

The Ernakulam district committee of CPI-M is believed to have allegiance to the party’s state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, while Ali is said to be in the good books of former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who is believed to be leading the opposing faction of the party.

“All the sanctions for the shopping mall were given while the previous Left government of Achuthanandan was in power,” said Kochi’s Mayor Tony Chammany.

Another of Ali’s major trouble relates to the 10.59 hectare of land in Kochi, around 200 km from here, on which Ali was planning to build a state-of-the-art convention centre and other facilities.

The plot was allotted to the businessman through an open bid and tender process initiated by the Cochin Port Trust. It was leased out to Ali in November 2010 for a sum of Rs.72 crore for 30 years.

Following the allegation of encroachment by the CPI-M’s Ernakulam district committee, Ali told media persons in Dubai that he was deeply hurt by it.

“I have always taken the lead to promote Kerala to leading investors of the world. This statement has deeply pained me,” Ali said.

He also announced that he was backing out from the convention centre project, and that he would invest in another state, according to a report.

“We welcome the decision of Ali to back out of the convention centre project, and hope that the land would be handed back to the Cochin Port Trust,” CPI-M Ernakulam secretary Dinesh Moni said.

The other Middle East-based businessman who has been caught in the crossfire between the two CPI-M factions is Ravi Pillai, owner of plush hotels at popular tourist destinations Kovalam and Kollam in the state.

While the CPI-M faction led by Vijayan is completely mum over the allotment of a parcel of land to Pillai near his Kovalam project, Achuthanandan has raised a red flag over the deal.

In a press release here Saturday, Achuthanandan said the 16 hectare of prime land belonged to the government.

“This is a blatant violation of the law of the land which the state government has done, and if need be I will not hesitate to take legal action against this,” the veteran Marxist leader said.

However, CPI-M politburo member M.A. Baby denied any tussle was ongoing between the party factions led by Vijayan and Achuthanandan. He termed it as a wild imagination of the media.

“The media has to come out with juicy and spicy reports. The truth is that every district committee of the party takes up an issue based on the situation and so do leaders. There is nothing beyond that,” Baby told IANS.

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