Fire at Kerala Secretariat’s protocol section sparks political controversy, files gutted; Congress seeks NIA probe

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BJP state president K Surendran and party workers were arrested while trying to enter the high-security Secretariat premises

Fire at Kerala Secretariat's crucial department under the General Administration Department has sparked a major political controversy in the state as the Opposition has claimed that several crucial files connected to the gold smuggling case have been destroyed in the incident.

Fire broke out in the chief protocol officer's section in the Secretariat at around 5 pm and a few files of guest house room bookings were gutted in the fire, reported Mathrubhumi quoting a senior GAD official.

The cause of the fire is said to be short circuit and fire tenders from nearby Chenkalchoola fire station put out the fire before spreading to other sections of the Secretariat.

As the report of fire spread, the Opposition UDF and BJP alleged conspiracy in the fire incident and claimed that several crucial files related to the gold smuggling case were kept in that place.

BJP state president K Surendran and party workers were arrested while trying to enter the high-security Secretariat premises.

Soon Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala also reached the Secretariat and wanted to examine the room where fire broke out. He along with UDF legislators was allowed to visit the place.

Chennithala claimed that several files were destroyed in the fire and the entire incident was mysterious.

Later he met Governor Arif Mohammad Khan in the night and sought his intervention in the matter.

Chennithala later told reporters that he informed the governor that he smelt trouble in the fire incident at a major department of the Secretariat.

The UDF will submit a memorandum to the governor on Wednesday  in this regard.  

He sought NIA probe into the fire incident and said that the Opposition UDF would observe black day on Wednesday across the state.

State Devaswom and Tourism Minister Kadakampalli Surendran told Asianet News that the Opposition blew the fire incident out of proportion for political mileage. Fire was extinguished in no time before inflicting major damage in the room, he added.

The Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government has been under fire ever since the gold smuggling case was detected at the Thiruvnanthapuram airport. The box containing 30 kg gold was sent to the UAE Consulate in the state capital.

The NIA is investigating the case besides the Enforcement Directorate and Customs.

One of the prime accused in the case, Swapna Suresh, confessed to the investigation agencies that she had connections with Kerala IT Department Principal Secretary M Sivasankar, who was also the secretary to the chief minister.

The Opposition alleged that despite the Home Ministry is under Vijayan, he did not know his secretary had connections with an accused in the gold smuggling case.

Vijayan is also facing the Opposition ire over the commission allegations in the Life Mission project in which the Red Crescent reportedly gave Rs 20 crore through the UAE Consulate at Thiruvananthapuram for constructing houses for the homeless in the state. The entire procedure led to controversy and the Centre sought details on the deal from the state government.

State Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel also courted controversy after he accepted food packets and Quran from the UAE Consulate in June. The Opposition alleged that the minister violated protocol and asked to sack him.

The Centre also sought details in the regard from the state government.

Image credit: Manorama

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