With just hours left for the Left Democratic Front (LDF) to lay its indefinite siege to the Secretariat, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy offered to convene talks with the Opposition to end the political stalemate over the demand for his resignation over the solar scam.
Addressing reporters at his official residence on Sunday, he said, “We are prepared to go the extra mile if they are prepared to cooperate,” he said.
The government, he said, had brought in Central forces not to intimidate the LDF or create a fear psychosis among the public but to uphold its constitutional responsibility. “The government has no intention to challenge the democratic right to stage a peaceful protest. But the Opposition cannot be allowed to paralyse the government by blocking all the four gates to the Secretariat,” he said.
He, however, said the police would not intervene if the agitation was peaceful. He reminded the LDF that the Cantonment gate of the Secretariat had remained open during Opposition protests over the last 43 years. Assuming responsibility for the decision to requisition Central security forces, Mr. Chandy said it was taken in consultation with the State police.
Mr. Chandy accused the CPI(M) and the BJP of finding a common ground to scupper the political prospects of the Congress in the next Parliament elections. He was replying to a question on the scheduled arrival of Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda in Thiruvananthapuram to inaugurate the indefinite siege of the Secretariat.
“In Karnataka, Deve Gowda enjoys the support of the BJP,” Mr. Chandy said. “In Kerala, the BJP and CPI(M) are hand in glove against the UDF government. The two parties have a common objective. While the CPI(M) wants to increase its tally, the BJP wants to reduce the number of seats won by the Congress,” he said.
KPCC backs Chandy
A meeting of the office-bearers of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), which met here on Sunday, extended its support to Mr. Chandy’s moves to tackle the LDF siege to the Secretariat.
At a press conference after the meeting, KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala said the Congress was ready to politically confront the LDF’s ‘politically motivated agitation.’ Even while admitting that the Chief Minister had not consulted the party prior to taking several crucial decisions, Mr. Chennithala said that Mr. Chandy had made it clear that he would take the full responsibility for the handling of the LDF strike since it had become a law and order issue. There was not much of a discussion at the meeting, with KPCC leadership taking care to avoid a division, which was evident among the participants on the eve of the LDF strike. However, the party leadership could not conceal differences among leaders outside the party forums. The critics included K. Muraleedharan and T.N. Pratapan, MLAs. Mr. Chennithala said their views were personal, but it would have been nice had they had raised them in appropriate forums.
The party meeting also announced a series of campaigns, spread over 10 days from August 16, to counter the LDF agitation.
The campaigns, which will include public meetings, will be held in all the 140 Assembly constituencies.