The Government, is, however, breathing easy because the widely expected arrest of the former principal secretary to the Chief Minister in connection with the gold smuggling case has not taken place.

A frustrated opposition has decided to up the ante by stepping up its struggle to secure the resignation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

For instance, the BJP has started a daily fast from July 31. The oust-CM protest, being held in all the 14 districts, will continue till August 18. On its part the Congress will also turn up the heat on the embattled LDF Government with its own agitational programme.

The big question is: how will the opposition parties conduct their protest actions in view of the Kerala High Court’s ban on struggles during the covid times. Will they ignore the HC directive? If they do that, the move will certainly attract contempt of court charges.

The Opposition’s decision to ‘hit the streets’ stems from its frustration over the failure to ‘secure’ the immediate arrest of the Chief Minister’s former principal secretary M Shivashanker in connection with the gold smuggling case.

However, much to their chagrin, the IAS officer has been let off after almost 25 hours of interrogation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). A stunned opposition, which was expecting to go for the kill after the arrest of Shivashanker at the end of the grilling, is, to say the least, disappointed at the totally unexpected turn of events. But, putting on a brave front, the opposition leaders are drawing comfort by claiming that it is only a temporary reprieve for the Government.

The interrogation of the former principal secretary to the CM is likely to resume after the NIA has examined the footage of the CCTV installed in the Secretariat. Once the NIA has accessed ‘clinching evidence’, the arrest of Shivashanker is the next logical step, crow the opposition leaders during the TV channel discussions on the case.

Whatever the denouement, there is visible relief in the ruling party camp over the letting off of Shivashaner. The arrest of the bureaucrat has not materialized for the simple reason that the N IA has, so far, failed to come across clinching evidence to book Shivashanker, point out the CPI(M) leaders. The political mercury is bound to soar once the NIA starts examining the CCTV footages. That said, right now, it is advantage LDF, to put it in tennis parlance.

Meanwhile, the covid situation continues to cause grave concern to the State Government. The situation in the Kerala capital of Thiruvananthapuram is particularly alarming with the virus continuing its vice-like grip on the hapless people of the district. If anything, the virus is spreading to new areas outside the large clusters in which it is raging.

So far, 71 deaths have taken place in the State. And it is a worrying sign that the rate of death is increasing, albeit slowly. The Government circles, however, claim that the rise in deaths is natural as the number of tests has also increased considerably over the past two weeks. Measures to control the situation are being taken on a war footing. And, sooner than later, the Government will be able to have a firm grip on the situation, aver the ruling party leaders.

It is against this sombre backdrop that Eid has come upon the State. The celebrations will be on a low key in view of the spread of the virus. Namaz will be confined to mosques, with strict conditions imposed on the number of those attending the prayers. The Government has clamped similar curbs on marriage functions as well. Not more than 20 people will be allowed to attend the function, which will not be allowed to continue for more than three hours.

The Keralites' cup of misery is overflowing with the monsoon also gathering strength over the last few days. These are, indeed, testing times for the Government. (IPA Service)