In a setback to the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government in Kerala, Higher Education minister K T Jaleel resigned on Tuesday, days after the Lokayukta indicted him for nepotism, abuse of power and breach of oath of office.
Jaleel has sent his resignation to the chief minister and it has been forwarded to the Governor, CMO sources said.
The resignation has been accepted by Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, Raj Bhavan said.
In a Facebook post, Jaleel himself confirmed that he had put in his papers.
"I am happy to say that those who had been baying for my blood can be relieved for now. I have submitted my resignation to the chief minister. Since the past two years, I have been facing a media onslaught," Jaleel, second minister in the LDF ministry to resign on nepotism charges, said in the post.
The resignation came four days after the Lokayukta's adverse remarks dealt an unexpected blow to Jaleel,and on a day his plea seeking a stay on the verdict was being heard by the Kerala high court, which has reserved orders on his petition.
The development comes at a time when the LDF government has hardly a couple of days left for its term to get over. The state assembly elections were held on April 6 and the results are awaited on May 2.
Industries E P Jayarajan had resigned in October 2016, five months after the Left ministry assumed office following a row over the appointment of his nephew and son of former Kannur MP P K Sreemathy as Managing Director of Kerala Industries Enterprises Ltd.
Two years later, Jayarajan was taken back in the ministry.
While Communist Party of India-Marxist secretary in-charge, A Vijayaraghavan welcomed the decision, saying it was apt and taken on moral grounds, the Congress said he should have stepped downearlier.
The CPI-M leadership is understood to have asked the minister to resign.
Law minister A K Balan had earlier stated that the Lokayukta had given the chief minister three months time to act on the report and that there was no such precedent in the state.
"Has anyone ever resigned just because a lower court has said something? Balan had asked as demands for Jaleel's resignation grew from various quarters following the adverse remarks by the Lokayukta.
Describing the resignation as "delayed wisdom" of Jaleel, Union minister V Muraleedharan wanted to know why the chief minister had also not quit.
"The CM who is active on social media is keeping mum on the matter," he told reporters in Delhi.
Lashing out at Jaleel, leader of opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala said the minister had no other go, but to resign.
The high moral ground that the party was claiming which prompted him to resign, was not right, the senior congress leaders said.
"Why did he not resign immediately after the Lokayukta verdict three days ago? Why did he move the high court?" Chennithala asked reporters.
A division bench of the Lokayukta, comprising Justice Cyriac Joseph and Justice Harun-Ul-Rashid, had on Friday submitted the report against Jaleel to the CM and had held that the allegation of abuse of power, favouritism and nepotism against the minister was proved.
The Muslim Youth League had on November 2, 2018 alleged that Adeeb K T, a cousin of Jaleel, was appointed general manager in Kerala State Minorities Development Finance Corporation, flouting rules.
Adeeb was serving as manager of a private bank when the appointment was made.
The Lokayukta had found that the minister had changed the qualifications for the post of general manager in the corporation to add "BTech with PGDBA" also as a qualification for the post to enable his second cousin, eligible for the post.
It had observed that the direction to add the particular qualification was without any proposal or suggestion from the Corporation and that Adeeb would not have been eligible to apply for the post.
"It amounted to favouritism and nepotism and also lack of integrity in his capacity as a minister. The conduct of the 2nd respondent (minister) also violated the oath of office he had taken as a minister to discharge his duties as a minister without fear or favour, affection or ill-will," the Lokayukta had said in its verdict.
Jaleel has been in the media glare since last year after he was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency over the import of Quran by the UAE consulate and his telephone conversation with Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the gold smuggling case relating to seizure of 30 kg of gold worth around Rs 15 crore through diplomatic baggage in July last year
Besides Jaleel and Jayarajan, A K Saseendran, late Thomas K Chandy (both NCP) and Mathew T Thomas (JD-S) were the other ministers in the present cabinet who had resigned.
Transport minister Saseendran had to quit after a 'sleaze audio clip', purportedly of him conversing with a woman aired by a television channel, went viral.
He was replaced by Chandy, who also had to resign following allegations of land grab for his luxury resort at Alappuzha.
After a court acquitted Saseendran of the sexual harassment charges, he was taken back in the cabinet.
Mathew T Thomas (JD-S) resigned as water resources minister to make way for party colleague K KrishnanKutty.