Thiruvananthapuram, Aug. 12: Thousands of Left supporters today laid an “indefinite” siege to the state secretariat demanding chief minister Oommen Chandy resign over the solar panel scam, in which three of his aides have been implicated.
The demonstrations remained largely peaceful but disrupted traffic at several places. Late tonight, the protesters were squatting and sleeping on some of the key roads around the seat of power.
Earlier, CPM national chief Prakash Karat had launched the siege in the presence of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, who too said Chandy had no option but to quit and order a judicial inquiry. The proprietors of a solar energy firm are accused of duping people in the name of installing solar energy panels at their homes and offices.
Although the protesters had announced they would blockade all the four gates of the secretariat complex, police ensured that one remained open. The government claimed that 67 per cent of secretariat staff had reported for work.
In the morning, a cabinet meeting had decided against using force on the protesters unless provoked. The police kept calm through the day despite the protesters occasionally scuffling with them and throwing stones and bottles.
Chandy later complimented the protesters and their leaders for ensuring a largely peaceful agitation, which some took to be an indication of a possible thaw. The chief minister also said the government was open to any probe once the police inquiry was over.
Left leaders, however, insisted they would not give up the agitation till Chandy resigned.
Congress leaders took pot shots at the CPM asking how senior leader Pinarayi Vijayan, an accused in the multi-crore SNC-Lavalin scandal, was one of those leading the protests.
Stray stone-throwing left the driver of a police jeep injured and a Congress leader was assaulted at a railway station. Central forces, which arrived in the city three days ago, are on standby.