Thodupuzha: The dawn-to-dusk hartal called by BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is under way in Idukki district. The protest is being staged demanding resignation of Kerala electricity minister M.M. Mani whose lewd remarks against women plantation workers ignited a row Sunday.
The hartal began at 6 am and will end at 6 pm. Essential services have been exempted from the protest. The hartal is nearly total with vehicles staying off the road and shops remaining shut. The protesters have promised not to trouble those who attend some entrance examinations scheduled for Monday.
The front will also be staging protests at all district headquarters in the state. BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan and NDA convener Thushar Vellappally demanded that a criminal case be registered against Mani on charges of atrocities against women.
In a lewd remark, Mani Saturday alleged that immoral activities had taken place in the forests near the protest venue during the month-and-a-half strike staged by Pembilai Orumai, an all-woman collective of tea plantation workers in Munnar.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and other party leaders have denounced the derogatory remarks.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala also sought to book Mani for insulting women.
Mani's comments caused tense moments in Munnar with Pembilai Orumai workers staging a protest in the town. They have made it clear that the protest will be called off only after Mani apologizes to them in person.
After his remark kicked up a controversy, Mani regretted the incident and said his comments were misconstrued.