Former Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan on Sunday blamed the media for misquoting his comments against the merger of local State Bank of Travancore with the SBI for the ongoing fast by legislators of the opposition Congress against the fee hike.
"I was returning after inaugurating a protest meeting with regards to the merging of the State Bank of Travancore with that of State Bank of India and it was to that I said that this was a wrong move by the government and a solution to this must be found out.
"But the media put out the news that what I said was about the ongoing indefinite fast by the Congress-led UDF legislators. This was purposely done to project that there was a difference of opinion between me and the state government," said Achuthanandan in a statement issued in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday night.
However the TV channels continued to show Achuthanandan, in response to questions about the ongoing strike by the opposition legislators on the "steep" fee hike, saying that the state government was handling the indefinite fast in a wrong manner.
The Congress was quick to support his statement.
"Anyone with sense will only say that an amicable solution should come from the government to end the ongoing impasse and we welcome the statement of Achuthanandan," said State Congress President V.M. Sudheeran.
Since Wednesday, three legislators of the Congress-led opposition have been on an indefinite fast in the foyer of the Kerala Assembly alleging that there was collusion between the state government, led by Pinarayi Vijayan, and private medical college managements who raised fees steeply.
The opposition has taken a tough stand against the way the Vijayan government has handled the issue of fee hike by self-financing private medical colleges in the state and said that they would not call-off the protest till the hike was rolled back.
The fast entered its fifth day on Sunday and on Saturday the health of former state Minister Anup K. Jacob deteriorated forcing him to be shifted to hospital.
Achuthanandan, whose rivalry with Vijayan is well known, appeared to have lost no time in putting Vijayan on the back foot and Sunday's statement gave enough ammunition to the Congress-led opposition for when the assembly meets on Monday after a two-day break.
Last week, Achuthanandan called on the fasting legislators and spent some time with them, enquiring about their health, while Vijayan was yet to do the same.
The two have been at loggerheads for long and Achuthanandan is still to come to terms with being sidelined by the party leadership -- which handed over the Chief Minister's post to Vijayan -- after it used him so successfully in the assembly election campaign.