As assembly polls near, Oppn takes on Kerala govt over temple tragedy

  • Ramesh Babu, Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
  • Updated: Apr 14, 2016 07:51 IST
As many as 113 people lost their lives in the tragedy, which occurred at the Puttingal temple in Kollam district on Sunday morning. (AP photo)

Barely three days after the Puttingal temple tragedy, the CPI(M)-led opposition launched a major offensive against the Kerala government – alleging serious lapses and demanding the resignation of state home minister Ramesh Chennithala.

Citing strictures passed by the Kerala high court while hearing a PIL on Tuesday, the party stated that there were attempts on the government’s part to silence Kollam district collector M Shainamol when she tried to prevent the temple authorities from holding the fireworks show that fateful night.

“The government should take responsibility for the worst-ever tragedy the state has witnessed. There are clear indications that intervention from high-ups, including a minister, neutralised police efforts –eventually leading to the disaster,” said party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

The high court had criticised the police force in the region, questioning why culpable homicide cases should not be filed against the errant officers.

Read: Kerala fire: 500g of concrete pellets removed from body of victim

Balakrishnan also accused two Congress candidates from the area of exerting undue pressure on the police to allow the fireworks display – a major attraction of the week-long temple festival – with the intention of garnering votes. The party also played recordings of speeches delivered by certain leaders, where they can be heard vowing to facilitate the fireworks display against all possible odds.

Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan sought the arrest of local Congress leaders who had allegedly pushed for the district collector’s order to be ignored. “The court has made it clear that the government machinery failed miserably in reining in those adamant on the fireworks display. The home minister has lost the moral responsibility to continue in power,” he said.

However, chief minister Oommen Chandy decried the “opposition’s attempts to politicise a major tragedy”.

Read: Man who organised Kerala temple fireworks show is dead

“When the Left was in power, 110 people lost their lives in the Sabarimala stampede and many others died in the Thekkady boat tragedy. We never sought the resignation of any minister then,” Chandy said.

The Congress-led UDF is now planning to approach the Election Commission over some posters linking its leaders with the tragedy.

However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s act of rushing to the spot with a team of specialists from Delhi had taken both the ruling party and the main opposition by surprise.

As many as 113 people lost their lives in a fireworks tragedy that occurred at the Puttingal temple in Kollam district on Sunday morning.

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