The Congress in Kerala on Monday staged a one-day state-wide fast demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on various issues, including the gold smuggling case over which his former principal secretary has been suspended.
State party chief Mullappally Ramachandran went on the fast at the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) office while heads of district units staged the protest in their respective offices as the party stepped up its attack on Vijayan, alleging that his office was involved in the gold smuggling racket.
The agitation came a day after a no-confidence motion moved by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) against the Vijayan government over the issues was defeated comprehensively by 87-40 votes in the state Assembly.
The fast by Ramachandran was inaugurated by Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala.
“Let me just tell you Mr Chief Minister, you are worried. You are afraid. It’s evident in your body language. Your office was involved in gold smuggling matter which has international ramifications. We have been raising this allegation for some time now,” Ramachandran said.
Chennithala claimed people “have passed” the no-confidence motion against the state government.
“The Indian National Congress was strongly criticised by the Chief Minister yesterday in the state Assembly. No one thought that our chief minister was so anti-Congress. He failed to utter a single word against the BJP or Narendra Modi. He trembles with fear at the very thought of Modi and Amit Shah,” Chennithala said.
In his reply to a marathon debate on the no-confidence motion in the Assembly, Vijayan had mounted a scathing attack on the Congress, saying it was in a “pathetic situation” and most of its leaders were waiting for a call to join the BJP.
He had also said the Congress was not able to elect its leader while seniors were describing each other as “BJP agents,” referring to the leadership issue faced by the party.
The UDF and the BJP have been targeting Vijayan over the smuggling of gold through diplomatic channel, alleging his office had links to the accused in the case, being probed by the National Investigation Agency, the Enforcement Directorate and the Customs, but the latter had dismissed the charges, saying his government would not back anyone found guilty.
The chief minister had on Monday told the Assembly that his government had sought a comprehensive probe by the central agencies and the NIA had even mentioned that in court.
He further said the NIA never made any statement in the court linking the chief minister’s office to the case and none of the arrested belonged to the Left party.
The matter related to smuggling of gold through diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE consulate here and the NIA has arrested several people, including four key accused.
Senior IAS officer M Sivasankar, who was principal secretary to the chief minister and secretary to the Information Technology department, has been suspended over alleged links to Swapna Suresh, one of the prime accused in the case.