In a temporary breather for Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, the state's High Court put a stay for two months on a vigilance court's directive that a FIR be lodged against him in case of graft that has seen violent protests over the past two days.
The stay order came after Chandy and Power Minister Aryadan Muhammed appealed in the High Court seeking the quashing of the vigilance court directive. Chandy was under intense pressure from the opposition to resign as CM since yesterday when the vigilance court passed the order.
Protests in Kerala
Students and youth activists today staged protests in front of the Chandy's house and in other parts of the state demanding resignation of the chief minister, who is facing allegations in the so called solar scam. Police used tear gas shells and water cannons to disperse agitators.
WATCH: DYFI activists protest in Trivandrum, Police use teargas shells to disperse protesters #SolarScamJanuary 29, 2016
The protest march by DYFI, the youth wing of CPI(M), turned violent here following which police used tear gas shells and batons to chase away the agitators, who gathered in large numbers and pelted stones at the forces, police said.
The main road in front of the state Secretariat in the heart of the city virtually turned into a battlefield.
Many media personnel covering the incident also suffered injuries in the melee. Shops remained shut in the area and vehicles parked on the road were damaged. The protesters, who raised slogans demanding resignation of Chandy, engaged in a scuffle in front of the district collectorate at Kozhikode.
Protests erupted across the state soon after prime accused Saritha, while deposing before the Justice Sivarajan Commission, alleged that she had paid bribes to the tune of Rs 1.9 crore to a close aide of the Chief Minister and Rs 40 lakh to Power Minister Arayadan Mohammed.
What is the Solar Scam?
Chandy is embroiled in a solar energy scam worth crores of rupees, with one of the accused in the scam, Saritha Nair, telling an investigative judicial commission on Thursday that she paid him a bribe of Rs 1.9 crore. Co-accused in the case, Biju Radhakrishnan in December told the commission he paid up to Rs 5.5 crore to Chandy.
In 2013, a fake solar energy company named Team Solar -- floated by Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha S. Nair -- reportedly duped several influential people of about 70 million rupees by offering to make them business partners. They also allegedly received advance payments by offering to install solar power units.
The company reportedly used them to create political contacts with links even to the Chief Minister's office.
The scam came to light when one of the customers who paid for the installation filed a case against the company.
Two of Chandy's personal staff members were allegedly involved and were suspended after the investigations.
Over several months, opposition Left parties stalled assembly proceedings and battled police on the streets in their campaign for Chandy's resignation.
To add to the party's troubles, television channels in Kerala on Wednesday aired the audio of a purported conversation between Congress state general secretary Thampanoor Ravi can be heard advising Saritha S Nair to 'play safe' ahead of her deposition before a judicial commission.
Chandy claims innocence
The Chief Minister spent nearly 11 hours being questioned on Monday.
He denied any involvement in the scam and also refused to take a lie-detector test as suggested by Saritha Nair's lawyer.
Speaking to CNN-IBN, Chandy said he was not worried as he has not taken a single penny. "Left and BJP targeting me because they are scared," Chandy said. "People of Kerala are smart, they know the truth," he said.
Chandy also told Indian Express that if there is an "iota of substance in the allegation", he will quit "public life.”
While the opposition is demanding Chandy's resignation, the Congress party is trying its best to find a way out of the troubles. The fact that the state elections are to be held in three months, is not helping their cause.
After a vigilance court ordered for an FIR to be filed against Chandy on Thursday, former Kerala chief minister AK Antony and Congress state chief Mukul Wasnik met party head Sonia Gandhi to discuss the strategies.
Though worried, the party has pinned its hopes on the High Court now quashing the vigilance court’s order.
Veteran Left leader VS Achuthanandan said: "The Chief Minister has to resign. These are the circumstances under which (ministers) KM Mani and K Babu resigned." Mr Babu won reprieve today as the High Court cancelled a vigilance court order for a police case against him.
Meanwhile, the BJP too is firing on all cylinders after the latest details blew up: "One cannot hope much from the Congress high command because it has looked the other way on corruption. Congress moves from one issue to another (to target BJP) but will somebody from its high command go to Kerala and speak on corruption?," said Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
"The charges against the chief minister and the power minister are of very serious nature and we demand their resignations."
(With inputs from Agencies)
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