Monday, August 12, 2013

Solar scam: Massive protests against Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy

Solar scam: Massive protests against Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy, huge security in Thiruvananthapuram Thiruvananthapuram: The chief minister of Kerala Oommen Chandy was escorted by police officers to a cabinet meeting today, as thousands of workers from the opposition surrounded the government's offices at the secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, demanding his resignation over what's known locally as the "solar scam", worth seven crores according to some estimates. "It is shameful that in a democratic country, today's cabinet meeting by the Chief Minister had to be held with heavy paramilitary protection," said MA Baby, a Left leader. CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat demanded the resignation of Mr Candy over the scam, saying the Congress was setting a "shameless" standard of not accepting responsibility for "what is happening right under its nose". The opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) claims more than 45,000 party workers have surrounded the state secretariat for what it calls an "indefinite protest" against Mr Chandy for "indefinitely delaying justice" in the case. With protests getting larger, paramilitary forces have also been brought into the city as back-up. Schools and colleges are closed till tomorrow in the city. Over 3000 police men are on the streets to control the situation while 10 companies of the paramilitary force have been kept on stand-by. "We had to do this because the LDF had threatened a complete breakdown of the system by blocking all possible entry or exit points to the secretariat. This is a democracy. Everyone has the right to protest but we cannot afford a systemic breakdown. But because protests were peaceful, there was no need to use force. This was what I had assured," Mr Chandy later explained. Mr Chandy was made chief minister in 2011 after the state elections were won by the United Democratic Front or UDF, a coalition fronted by the Congress. The solar scam - an alleged con job by a pair of entrepreneurs including a woman named Saritha Nair - has engulfed him for the last two months because records showed members of Mr Chandy's office were in frequent touch with the couple. LDF_protesters_outside_Kerala_Assembly_295_1_12Aug13.jpgA widely-circulated photograph showed Ms Nair whispering something into Mr Chandy's ear. The Chief Minister explained, "I didn't remember any of this incident. But later I had asked and confirmed from my officials and they had said... After that I had openly told in a Kozhikode press conference that I had met her in a public meeting." Ms Nair and her partner, Biju Radhakrishnan, are accused of swindling several people and companies by failing to deliver on solar energy solutions they had promised. They are in jail along with Teny Jopan, who was the chief minister's personal assistant. On Sunday, local television channels played up the photograph of Ms Nair sharing the stage with the chief minister a public function in January last year. "Chandy is accessible to anyone and anyone can meet him and say anything to him, so this does not mean anything," said his party colleague, Sooranad Rajasekharan. Mr Chandy has warned the opposition that they will "regret these protests". "My government has nothing to hide. The LDF is making use of this opportunity to hide its internal issues. But the people of this state know the truth. The LDF will regret these protests," he said. Article credits: Sneha Mary Koshy, NDTV

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