Special Correspondent

Chief Minister charges Opposition with ‘smear campaign’

Assembly proceedings brought to a halt

Opposition members arrive with banners, placards

THIRUVANATHAPURAM: The Opposition brought the proceedings of the Assembly to a halt demanding Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan’s apology and resignation over the remark he had made about his visit to slain NSG commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s home in Bangalore on Sunday.

The Opposition members, who had given notice for an adjournment motion on the issue on Tuesday, rushed into the well of the House twice during zero hour taking umbrage at the Chief Minister’s remark.

Slogans from the well

They stayed put in the well and began raising slogans seeking the Chief Minister’s resignation when they hit the well a second time.

Speaker K. Radhakrishnan’s repeated appeals fell on deaf ears and he was forced to rush through the remaining part of the day’s business, including a bill for constituting a Devaswom board for temples in erstwhile Malabar , in the matter of a few minutes.

The House was in turmoil as soon as the zero hour began. Although the Chief Minister tried to explain his side of the story, the Opposition was in no mood to give up till the Chief Minister expressed regrets for this remark. The Opposition members had arrived with banners and placards seeking an apology from Mr. Achuthanandan and had earlier refused to participate in the proceedings during question hour.

VS’ version

Reading out from a prepared statement, Mr. Achuthanandan said he had left for Delhi on November 28 afternoon to attend the party Polit Bureau meeting and that when he came to know that Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s cremation was taking place in Bangalore, he had asked his Political Secretary K.N. Balagopal to visit his Bangalore home and convey his condolences. Mr. Balagopal had done as directed by him.

“I also called Mr. Unnikrishnan on November 29 and conveyed to him our condolences. Besides, when Mr. Unnikrishnan said he was not crying because his son had died for the country, I told him I viewed it with pride. I told him that I would reach Bangalore after attending the Polit Bureau meeting and that Home Minister Kodiyeri (Balakrishnan) would also reach there. Our talk was quite cordial,” he said.

The Chief Minister said he and Mr. Balakrishnan had reached Bangalore on Sunday and had gone to Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s home. When they reached there, Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s father was seen to be in a fit of rage. “We saw Mr. Unnikrishnan’s anger only as the state of mind of a father who had lost his only son,” he said. He accused the Opposition of having launched a smear campaign to cover up the failure of the Union government

Taking strong exception to the Chief Minister’s refusal to tender an apology, Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy said it was most regrettable that such a controversy had erupted at a time when Sandeep Unnikrishnan had laid down his life for the country. He demanded to know why the Chief Minister was silent on CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat’s statement that his remark was regrettable.

Statesmen had the responsibility to be restrained in their use of words. The Opposition expected the Chief Minister to admit that he had erred in making the remark and apologise. Instead, he was trying to make more insinuations, Mr. Chandy said.

Special Correspondent writes from Kochi: Mr. Achuthanandan’s expression of regret over his remarks against Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s family is meant to save his chair, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala has said. Talking to press men here on Wednesday, Mr. Chennithala said Mr. Achuthanandan’s remarks against Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy were ‘street type.’