After disrupting the Kerala Assembly for four consecutive days over the Sabarimala issue, the Congress-led UDF opposition Tuesday boycotted the proceedings, protesting against not discussing the nepotism charges against Local Administration minister K T Jaleel.
The UDF alleged that the minister had appointed his cousin, Adeeb K T, as general manager in the Kerala State Minorities Development Finance Corporation by flouting rules and changing the qualification criteria, which amounted to corruption.
But Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan categorically rejected the charges and said it was a "baseless allegation" and the appointment was made as per rules.
Vijayan said that the opposition was trying to create a "smokescreen" over an appointment which was made after following all mandatory procedures.
It was the first time that the Chief Minister was reacting to the charges against Jaleel, though the opposition has been on the warpath against the minister for the last several weeks over charges of favouritism and nepotism.
"The minister has not flouted any rule. As per the rule of business, the approval of the Cabinet is not mandatory for making an appointment in a state-run Corporation. It is also not necessary to make any change in the qualification," he said.
The Chief Minister said Adeeb was serving as the senior manager of the South Indian Bank and was appointed in the Corporation as he was qualified and eligible for the post.
"Other applicants did not meet the mandatory qualification or have desirable experience," he said.
Taking a dig at the opposition, Vijayan also said he had a detailed list of appointments made during the time of the previous UDF ministry, "flouting rules and norms".
However, seeking a notice for the adjournment motion over the issue, K Muraleedharan (Congress) criticised the Chief Minister for taking such a grave issue in a "very light manner".
He said there was enough evidence to prove that the minister had made the appointment by going against rules and after purposefully making changes in the requisite qualification criteria to get Adeeb into the institution.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that the Chief Minister was protecting the corrupt.
"What Jaleel had done was blind nepotism and favouritism and it amounted to corruption," he alleged.
In his reply, Jaleel reiterated his stand that the appointment was transparent and the allegations were "baseless".
As the Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan rejected their demand for a discussion over the issue, the Opposition later boycotted the House proceedings.
The UDF had been disrupting the assembly proceedings for the last four days, demanding the lifting of prohibitory orders and other restrictions in the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple.
Three of their MLAs are continuing their satyagraha at the portals of the House, pressing the same demand.
Jaleel is the second minister of the Pinarayi Vijayan led LDF government who has been caught in the nepotism row.
In October 2016, just five months after coming to power, then Industries minister E P Jayarajan had to resign on a similar charge.
However, Jayarajan was reinstated as a minister in August this year.
(With inputs from agencies.)