Kerala boils over solar panel scam

Protesters demand chief minister's resignation

The central pockets of the capital city turned into battle zones on Tuesday as protesters demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy clashed with police.

Youth organisations affiliated to the opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) took the policemen on with stones, bottles and petrol bombs. The protestors also managed to break security barriers and entered the state secretariat premises. They raised slogans against Chandy, who is facing fresh allegations of fraud in connection with the solar panel scam. The police retaliated with water cannons and fired tear-gas shells at the protestors.

The protests started by midnight after a TV channel aired an interview of Sreedharan Nair, an industrialist who was allegedly cheated by fraudsters involved in the solar panel scam.

During the interview, he claimed to have met Chandy in July last year, along with prime accused Sarita S Nair, to discuss possible investment opportunities in a solar energy project implemented by Sarita’s company. Chandy had approved of the company’s credibility, he claimed.

The interview set the tone for Tuesday’s protests in different parts of the state by members of Leftist youth groups. Opposition parties have announced more protests from Wednesday across the state demanding Chandy’s resignation. The LDF has also announced a 12-hour hartal in the state on Wednesday.

Earlier, in the Legislative Assembly, the chief minister reiterated that he had met Nair but the meeting was not in connection with a solar energy project. The session that resumed after a two-week break on Monday was adjourned sine die after recurring interruptions and verbal exchanges.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday backed Chandy by stating that the situation did not call for a change in leadership. He said the focus should be on completing the ongoing police investigation into the scam.

There are reports that party president Sonia Gandhi has sought a report into the scam and intra-party rifts which have prevented the state Congress unit from putting a united front.

Achuthanandan hospitalised

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) said it would protest the manner in which police lobbed a tear gas shell close to the opposition legislators, led by former chief minister VS Achuthanandan, in front of the state secretariat while they were addressing their supporters.

Achuthanandan, after complaining of breathlessness, was admitted to a private hospital along with former ministers C. Divakaran and Surendran Pillai.

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