KERALA

Row over reappointment of panchayat secretary

THRISSUR OCT. 31. The Thrissur District Panchayat president, M.V. Visalakshy, and other LDF members in the panchayat were arrested and dragged into a jeep by the police when they staged a dharna in front of the panchayat office to protest against the `imposition' of the secretary who had been removed earlier as per their request.

Tension mounted when Ms. Visalakshy and the LDF members refused to take bail and decided to hold an indefinite fast in the police station to protest against the entry of the police into the panchayat office compound without the permission of the president, and the police `excesses' there.

The CPI(M) district secretary and other LDF leaders soon rushed to the police station, and announced the party's decision to vehemently protest against the police action. They also gave a call to the LDF workers to march to the police station. In the meanwhile, some CPI(M) and DYFI workers took out a demonstration leading to a minor scuffle with the police. However, the situation was brought under control following a discussion between the LDF leaders and K. Radhakrishnan, MLA. The former Ministers, Krishnan Kaniyamparambil and Lonappan Nambadan, held talks with the police along with Jayarajan.

The police then unconditionally released Ms. Visalakshy and the other LDF members without any case, converting their arrest into a mere `removal'. The panchayat members had begun their protest from 10 a.m.

The agitation was against S. Gopalakrishnan Potty, who had been reappointed as the panchayat secretary after five days of his removal by the Government. The agitators said that Mr. Potty would not be permitted to enter the office. Mr. Potty did not come to the office till about 12 noon. Meanwhile, Mr. Potty had complained to the police, and before his arrival the police were in the panchayat office compound.

In the meantime, the UDF members led by P.A. Madhavan came out shouting slogans and launched a sit-in in front of the panchayat office next to the protesting LDF members. And as the rival LDF and UDF members were shouting slogans against each other, Mr. Potty entered the panchayat office compound around noon.

The LDF members closed the gate of the office to prevent his entry. Tension mounted when the UDF members tried to forcibly open the gate and the LDF members resisted it. The police soon intervened and asked the UDF members to move aside. They then started arresting the LDF members. When the LDF members resisted arrest they were dragged by the police into the jeep. The shortage of women police created many awkward situations. A beaming Mr. Potty entered the office after all the LDF members were arrested and after posing for media visuals.

An official of the DRDA, Mr. Potty was appointed as the district panchayat secretary a couple of months after the UDF came to power replacing Satheedevi, who was appointed to that post during the previous LDF rule in the State. But soon after Mr Potty assumed office, the district panchyat became an arena of verbal clashes between the president and the secretary. The differences of opinion had created many complex situations in the panchayat.

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