Thiruvananthapuram

Kerala Opposition leader begins sit-in protest demanding CM’s resignation

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala during a sit-in protest at Cantonment House, his official residence demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and CBI probe into the alleged links of the CMO with gold smugglers. Other UDF leaders joined in from other parts of the State.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala during a sit-in protest at Cantonment House, his official residence demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and CBI probe into the alleged links of the CMO with gold smugglers. Other UDF leaders joined in from other parts of the State.   | Photo Credit: S Mahinshah

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala on Monday commenced a day-long sit-in protest at his official residence here to press for the resignation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Leaders of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) joined the agitation, titled ‘Speak Up Kerala’, from their homes and offices across the State at 9.30 a.m.

The Opposition has accused the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) of having fronted for international gold smugglers and anti-national elements.

Mr. Chennithala said the probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the UAE Consulate-linked gold smuggling case had come embarrassingly close to the CMO.

It has found that the smuggling syndicate, which had “close links” with the CMO, had channelled part of the proceeds to orchestrate domestic terror plots.

The NIA and the Customs had repeatedly questioned Mr. Vijayan’s former Principal Secretary M. Sivasankar as part of their probe.

 

A committee headed by Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta had found that Mr. Sivasankar had recommended Swapna Suresh, the second accused in the case registered by the NIA, for a job in the strategic space project programme of the Kerala government.

At the same time, Ms. Suresh was a permanent employee at the UAE Consulate here. Mr. Vijayan could not ignore the committee’s damning finding and was constrained to suspend the officer from service on the charge of official misconduct. However, the Chief Minister could not shrug off responsibility by scapegoating Mr. Sivasankar, he said.

(Mr. Sivasankar has denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the alleged criminal antecedents of the smuggling case accused.)

Mr. Chennithala said the government was neck-deep in the case. Its Minister for Higher Education, K. T. Jaleel, had received gifts from the UAE Consulate and interacted with the foreign mission without the sanction of the Ministry of External Affairs.

(Mr. Jaleel had clarified earlier that he had received Iftar relief package for indigent families in his constituency from the Consulate as part of Ramzan-related charitable activities. He said he had interacted with Ms. Suresh in her capacity as executive secretary to the UAE consulate general. The interactions were professional and minimal.)

The Opposition had served a notice to the secretary of the Kerala Legislative Assembly seeking leave of the House to introduce a motion to remove Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan. Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) legislator M. Ummer, who moved the notice, had accused the Speaker of having attended a private function hosted by Ms. Suresh.

 

(The CM had said on July 13 that the Speaker had interacted with the woman (Ms. Suresh ), in her capacity as a Consulate official. He had accepted her invitation to inaugurate a car accessory shop. It was only later that her role in the gold smuggling case had come to light.)

Mr. Chennithala said the UDF would settle for nothing less than a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the role of the CMO in the gold smuggling case. “The people of Kerala felt betrayed that the government had used their mandate to betray the nation and indulge in treason and economic offences,” he said.

The Communist Party of India, a front ruling partner, had found something amiss with the CMO. It had indirectly rebuked Mr. Vijayan by penning an editorial in Janayugam, the party newspaper, that the CMO should be above suspicion.

The CPI had lobbied for the removal of Mr. Sivasankar from the CMO. Mr. Vijayan remained unconvinced and clung on to his confidant. He had to drop Mr. Sivasankar after his alleged association with the racketeers became a political hot potato, Mr. Chennithala said.

Mr. Vijayan has repeatedly countered the Opposition accusations as attempts to create political drama in the run-up to the local body elections. The UDF lacked a platform to attack the government. It faced a scarcity of subjects. Hence, the coalition had resorted to make-believe. CPM State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had accused Mr. Chennithala of working in tandem with the BJP to discredit the government.

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Printable version | Sep 30, 2020 10:16:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/kerala-opposition-leader-begins-sit-in-protest-demanding-cms-resignation/article32257533.ece

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