Chandy injured in stone-pelting, CPI-M rules out involvement

Kannur/Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 27 (IANS) Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy suffered injuries to his forehead and chest after suspected CPI-M activists stoned his car here Sunday evening. He is being airlifted to the state capital, said an official.

Speaking to IANS, the official said a special aircraft has been sent to get the chief minister.

"All his official programmes for tomorrow (Monday) have been cancelled and he will undergo more medical tests," added the official.

Chandy was taken to a Kannur hospital for a check-up late Sunday night. Emerging from the hospital with his forehead bandaged, he said: "I am leaving for Kozhikode and from there will fly to Thiruvananthapuram."

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has denied its involvement in the attack. A probe has been ordered into the incident and two CPI-M activists detained, while state-wide condemnation has poured in.

The incident occurred when Chandy was on his way to attend the annual Kerala Police athletics meet in Kannur.

Speaking to reporters in Kannur, party general secretary T. Siddiq said he was travelling with the chief minister in his car when the attack occurred.

"...Stones came from both sides and I immediately threw my hands around him to protect him and a stone hit my hand. The glass pieces came flying and hit him on the forehead and injured him," he said.

Chandy, however, was unfazed by what happened even as blood drops appeared on his forehead. In his characteristic manner, he smiled and waved to his supporters and took his position as the chief guest.

Later, striking a conciliatory pose, he said desisting from violence would save the state and the CPI-M.

State CPI-M secretary Pinnarayi Vijayan condemned the incident and said his party had not orchestrated the attack. Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan too condemned the attack.

Chandy welcomed Vijayan's statement.

Addressing a public meeting in Kannur later, he said: "I just heard Vijayan's statement and I see it in a positive light. If he has said it seriously, I am the most happiest person because both Kerala and the CPI-M will be saved."

Amidst applause, Chandy said if Vijayan is serious about what he said, "then let us begin from Kannur that there will be no violence in politics".

"But if it is otherwise and they think they can take on their political rivals using violence, they are mistaken," he said.

He said he has rejected the state-wide shutdown Monday, planned by the party following the incident and announced by state party chief Ramesh Chennithala.

Across the state, Congress and United Democratic Front (UDF) activists took to the streets with strongest protests in Malappuram district where angry UDF supporters shouting slogans against Achuthanandan and Vijayan and demanding the two not be allowed to enter the district.

"The attack on Chandy should be seen as an attack on the people of Kerala and the CPI-M should call off their protest against Chandy," said Finance Minister K.M. Mani.

"This is rowdyism by the CPI-M and this is going to be the beginning of their end," remarked Electricity Minister Aryadan Mohammed.

Chennithala said he suspected there was a conspiracy behind the attack and demanded a probe.

Kannur district has always been the stronghold of the CPI-M and top party leaders, including Vijayan and politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, hail from there.

Minister for Civil Aviation K.C. Venugopal said this is a ghastly incident and the CPI-M will have to pay a heavy price for this act, while media baron and former Lok Sabha member M.P. Veerendra Kumar said that with this act, democracy has reached its lowest ebb in the state.

CPI's youth legislator V.S. Sunil Kumar said such a thing should not have happened.

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