Squabbling erupts in Kerala's ruling alliance
news Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | January 20, 2015 | 7.15 pm IST R. Balakrishna Pillai, a senior leader of Kerala's Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), said Tuesday he would be happy if ousted from the coalition over controversy that he knew about the bribe allegedly demanded by Finance Minister K.M. Mani from bar owners. "I will be more happy if I am booted out. I feel I will be stronger if I am outside the UDF, than being an ally of the UDF. If I am booted out, I will be able to reveal more," Pillai told reporters here. The audio recordings aired on TV channels Monday ostensibly revealed that whistleblower bar owner Biju Ramesh had called Pillai. Pillai is heard saying he along with his son K.B. Ganesh Kumar - a former minister - had told Chief Minister Oommen Chandy that Mani was taking bribes from several business groups. Pillai is heard telling Ramesh that he should not backtrack on his statement, and should approach the Kerala High Court seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the bar graft case. Ramesh alleged in October 2014 that Rs.1 crore was given to Mani as the first installment of the Rs.5 crore he demanded to help reopen bars that were closed under the state's new liquor policy. Following the allegation, the vigilance department registered a case against Mani. The UDF consists of nine political parties and was formed in the early 80s and Pillai is one of its founder leaders. Pillai heads one of the three Kerala Congress parties, who are allies in the UDF. Following the revelation, a peeved Mani demanded that Pillai should be booted out of the UDF and has approached Chandy and UDF convenor P.P. Thankachen. Mani's Kerala Congress-Mani also is in a quandary a second conversation involved Ramesh and P.C. George, government chief whip and the party's vice chairman. George is heard saying that even though he defends Mani on TV channel debates, it should not be given any importance. Pillai said: "Before Mani's party wants action against me, they should throw out George first." Meanwhile, Chandy Tuesday held informal talks with the senior leaders of the UDF and a meeting is expected to be called early next week. Tweet
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