Opposition turns the heat on Pinarayi

A paroxysm of street protests demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan swept across the State on Wednesday following the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) detention of his former Principal Secretary M. Sivasankar for questioning on money laundering charges related to the UAE consulate-linked gold smuggling case.

Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers spearheaded the protests primarily in front of the ED’s office in Kochi and the Secretariat here. However, its ripples were felt across the State in the form of local-level protests to spotlight Mr. Vijayan’s alleged ‘proximity’ to Mr. Sivasankar.

Mr Sivasankar’s detention has catalysed the Opposition’s demand for Mr Vijayan’s resignation. Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the arrest of Mr. Sivasankar had done Mr. Vijayan’s bidding. The Chief Minister functioned behind an iron curtain. Even lawmakers and Ministers had no access to him. However, his office was open at all times for economic offenders, smugglers and traitors. Mr Vijayan had betrayed the public trust. Mr Vijayan should resign and face an enquiry, he said.

BJP leader N. Krishnadas said Mr. Vijayan had lost the moral right to continue in office.

The Left Democratic Front has rallied behind the Chief Minister. Communist Party of India (CPI) State secretary Kanam Rajendran said the government had removed Mr. Sivasankar from service on the charge of official misconduct. The government was not responsible for the private conduct of the officer.

Law Minister A. K. Balan said there was no ground or precedent for the Chief Minister to resign because a former bureaucrat attached to his office was under suspicion for ‘wayward’ behaviour. The Opposition’s allegations had no merit.

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