TV channel shows photo of Chief Minister with scam accused Saritha

Even as everything seemed to be set for a peaceful Opposition siege of the Secretariat beginning Monday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy found himself in some trouble late Sunday night with People TV, controlled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), releasing a photograph showing him at a public function along with the solar-scam accused Saritha S. Nair.

The photograph aired by the channel, showing Saritha speaking into the Chief Minister’s ear as he attends a public function at Kottayam in January 2012, was aired in a late-night bulletin, triggering instant demand from Opposition leaders for his immediate resignation.

The day had begun in relative calm with the government and the Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) speaking in terms of a peaceful engagement. However, with the release of the photograph, the calm proved to be deceptive.

The Chief Minister struck a conciliatory note early in the day saying that the government was ready for talks with the Opposition on their demands.

However, the LDF leaders rejected Mr. Chandy’s offer as quickly as it was made, but they were careful to emphasise the point that the Secretariat siege would be peaceful and there would be no attempt to foment trouble.

As a sign of its readiness to meet the Opposition halfway, the government decided to keep the Central forces confined to makeshift camps on college and school campuses a little removed from the Secretariat and entrust the security of the State administrative headquarters to the local police personnel.

Although Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan wrote to Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan urging the Opposition to spare the key Cantonment gate of the Secretariat, there was no immediate response to his plea.

Informed sources said there was some understanding on keeping the gate opened in return for the Central forces being confined to the camps, but the understanding appeared to have broken down by evening.

Opposition activists began arriving in the State capital from all parts of the State by evening by train and various other modes of transport. Opposition parties have made elaborate arrangements to provide food and accommodation to the LDF workers.

There was some tension in front of the Legislators’ Hostel when Opposition legislators staged a sit-in to protest against attempts to prevent them from hosting guests in their rooms.

The protest ended only after it was officially clarified that no fresh curbs had been introduced.