Thiruvananthapuram: But for the media, the so-called solar scam would not have got the kind of publicity it did in Kerala, where some felt it would bring to an end the political career of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
But it now appears that thanks to the efforts of his main political adversary, the CPI-M, Chandy appears to have wriggled out from a tight corner.
The CPI-M organised one of the biggest sieges in the state with more than 50,000 workers crowding in a three sq km radius of the secretariat, the state government's seat of power, from dawn on Monday.
Its leaders cried from roof tops that "not even a fly" would be allowed inside the secretariat; that siege would continue till Chandy quit after announcing a judicial probe into the solar scam, in which, according to the Left, his office had a major role to play along with the con-couple that had duped numerous investors of Rs.7 crore after promising them solar panels.
More than a dozen TV channels telecast the siege live and a few skirmishes were also reported between the comrades and the police force, but better sense prevailed among the top leaders of the Left and things were brought under control.
Matters changed by afternoon when the state government reported that 67 percent of the secretariat employees had reported for work. With around a dozen companies of central paramilitary forces (around 1,000 personnel) in waiting to be called in if there was an emergency and Chandy holding a special cabinet meeting in the secretariat, the Left leaders felt that their objective had failed to materialise. Some of them felt that something had to be done as the cadres were getting restless.
When Tuesday dawned, the protesters had no place but to head for the railway stations, bus stands and even public ponds where they could answer nature's call and bathe.
The first nail in the coffin of the Left leadership came when Chandy pulled a fast one by declaring that the secretariat staff would be given a two-day holiday as the rehearsals for the Independence Day parade could not be held at the Central Stadium that lies adjacent to the secretariat complex.
Soon Chandy called a press meet to announce that since the police probe into the cases charged against the con-couple was over, he was prepared for a judicial probe, as promised by him ever since the scam surfaced in June.
His offer, however, came with a rider that neither he nor his office would come under the ambit of the judicial probe.
The Left, viewing this as the best opportunity to wriggle out, went into a huddle. Soon, CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, in a speech extending close to half an hour claimed victory and decided to call off the siege while declaring that the struggle would continue till Chandy quit.
"One phase of our struggle is over and now begins the next stage. Chandy will no longer get any freedom of movement as our people will be there to block him. We will not rest till he is ousted because he refuses to toe the line of his predecessors like K. Karunakaran and A.K. Antony who resigned on moral grounds (when they faced a scam)," Vijayan said.
But Chandy did not do anything to rub salt into the wounds of the Left leaders. Rather, he complimented the opposition for calling off the siege and also thanked it for maintaining law and order during the 36-hour stir.
"I am certainly open and if they can come with evidence to link me or my office, it will be considered but if they are interested only in politics, it will not be accepted," Chandy maintained.
What has come as a shock to the CPI-M is the campaign in the new media where their leaders' statements on the siege have been linked to popular film dialogues. On the whole, nevertheless, the effort has come as a blessing in disguise for the party, which had taken a huge beating with the arrest of more than two dozen of its leaders in the brutal murder last year of a former colleague, T.P. Chandrasekharan.
"Whatever is said or done, we have been able to set aside issues in the party and have put a good effort to pep up our cadres ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls," said a top leader of the CPI-M who did not wish to be identified.