Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 9 (IANS) The Left opposition in Kerala has begun a 140-day protest near the official residence of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, in an attempt to pressure him to resign over what has come to be called the "solar scam".
At first, the Left opposition protested in all the village councils in the state. It then took its protest to the district headquarters, and followed that up with a protest outside the state secretariat.
The Left, led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist, has been demanding that a judicial probe be instituted into the scam -- that demand has been met. Another demand is that the chief minister step down to enable "a free and fair" probe.
Although a judicial probe has been ordered, it is being done by a retired judge. Leader of Opposition in the state assembly V.S. Achuthanandan has said that a sitting high court judge must probe the matter, not a retired judge.
"In Delhi, the Congress was routed in the elections by a new party whose symbol is the broom. With Chandy and his friends turning into a fraud company by aiding people like Saritha Nair and others (the accused in the solar scam), people here will soon come with brooms and drive him away. So it's best to have a proper judicial probe and not one by a retired judge," said Achuthanandan, addressing those gathered for the launch of the 140-day protest.
Since protestors Monday were not allowed to reach the residence of the chief minister, they squatted on a road close to it.
A 500-strong police posse has been deployed for security in the vicinity of the chief minister's residence. Students of two leading schools nearby had a hard time making their way through the protestors.
"What's this Left opposition up to? They claim they have laid a siege, and yet leave one road free for the chief minister to arrive and leave. All this is just humbug. It's a protest with an eye to Lok Sabha polls next year," said one angry commuter trying to wend his way through choked traffic.
The Left opposition has planned to have its workers from all assembly constituencies take turns to be part of the blockade at the chief minister's house.
After Achuthanandan spoke, top Left leaders courted arrest. Soon afterwards, Day One of the Left action was declared ended.
The chief minister missed all the action, being away in Idukki district to take part in the mass contact programme that has won a UN award.
Left Democratic Front convenor Vaikom Viswan clarified that the protest was against Chandy, and had nothing to do with the rest of his family.
The solar panel scam has been making headlines in Kerala since June 3, when Saritha Nair was arrested. Two weeks later, her live-in partner Biju Radhakrishnan was also taken into custody.
The couple allegedly defrauded people by offering solar energy solutions at huge discounts and lured people into investing in their enterprise by citing acquaintance with people in high office in the state government.
Telephone call records of the couple revealed they had been in close touch with influential people in Kerala and three of Chandy's staff members lost their jobs, as it was found that they had maintained links with Saritha Nair.