Fire At Kerala Secretariat An Attempt To Save CM Vijayan In Gold Smuggling Case, Alleges Congress Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan (Facebook)

Launching a scathing attack against Kerala Chief Minister (CM) Pinarayi Vijayan and Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala on Wednesday (26 August) said that the fire at the state Secretariat is a conspiracy to save Vijayan in the gold smuggling case.

The Kerala government, meanwhile, directed Additional Director General of Police Manoj Abraham to conduct a probe into the fire. On Wednesday morning, the team began the probe.

Launching a protest in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram to demand Vijayan's resignation, Chennithala said, "All the people of the state saw the action of Mehta yesterday when a fire broke out in the General Administration Department at the Secretariat. He was seen chasing away the media who came to find out what happened. He is no longer Vishwas Mehta -- he is 'Avishwas Mehta'. He has lost credibility as his main aim now is to save Vijayan."

The fire broke out around 4:30pm on Tuesday, following which top leaders of the opposition Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reached there.

"Our MLAs, including area legislator and former Minister VS Sivakumar went there to find out what happened. But the police and other top officials did not allow them entry. It was only after I went to the spot that we were allowed entry. The fact of the matter is, this fire is a 'created one' meant to save Vijayan as the National Investigation Agency has now reached his doorsteps. We met the Governor last night and briefed him about what happened. We do not want a probe by Mehta; we demand that the NIA should take up this fire case also," added the Leader of Opposition.

There are reports that gold smuggling case accused PS Sarith and Swapna Suresh had links with officials of the GAD (Protocol) wing, where the fire broke out.

"All heard Vijayan saying that a thunder had recently damaged CCTV at his official residence. Soon came another news that CCTV in the Secretariat has also been damaged, and now this fire. Everything is mysterious as Vijayan now leads a gang out to undo everything. We will not rest until he is ousted," said Chennithala.

The gold smuggling case was unearthed when Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, was arrested by the Customs on July 5 when he was facilitating smuggling of 30 kg gold in diplomatic baggage to Thiruvananthapuram from Dubai.

Things turned murkier when the name of Swapna Suresh, a former employee of the Consulate, and employed with the IT Department, surfaced. Later, her links with now-suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar, then posted as Principal secretary to Vijayan and also the IT Secretary, came to light.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

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