Will Mani go the Kunhalikutty way in Kerala?
news Friday, January 23, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | January 23, 2015 | 5.05 pm IST Is it yesterday once more for Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, senior leaders in the coalition are asking, as they wonder if Finance Minister K.M. Mani will go the way P.K. Kunhalikutty did in January 2005. Chandy became the chief minister for the first time in October 2004 after A.K. Antony stepped down. Soon thereafter following an aggressive media trial, the then state industries minister Kunhalikutty, of Indian Union Muslim League leader, had to quit over an old sleaze case that hit headlines. Exactly a decade after that episode, a sword hangs over Mani who will turn 82 on Jan 30. The irrepressible Mani, who heads the Kerala Congress (Mani) has numerous records as a legislator which includes winning every election since 1965, thereby becoming the longest serving legislator in the country; he has presented the maximum number of state budgets - 12. Also he has served as a minister for the longest period. Over the years, Mani has held practically every post except the chief minister's. Those who know him closely would vouch, that he badly wanted to sign off his distinguished political career by becoming the chief minister. Speculation was rife that Mani, will rock the Chandy led UDF government's 'boat' and become the chief minister with the support of the Left opposition for the remainder of the governments terms which expires next years. But on the last day in October last year, a bar owner Biju Ramesh alleged that Rs.1 crore was given to Mani as the first instalment of the Rs.5 crore he demanded to help reopen bars in the state. This virtually nipped his ambition in the bud.Ever since the dozen TV channels in the state have been airing stories about the scandal virtually daily. Mani who was often seen with his head held high given his five decade old political career, has gone into a shell today. Recently, Mani with folded hands faced the TV channels stating that he has no 'ambitions' and would prefer to remain in the present post. Meanwhile with the Left opposition preferring it to play it down, the BJP appears to have scored their first point as they have announced a state-wide shutdown on Tuesday demanding that Mani quit. The BJP is yet to open its account in the 140 member Kerala assembly. Left opposition has also followed suit and warned that if Mani present his 13th state budget (March 13), the state assembly will witness pandemonium. But Chandy and state Congress president V.M. Sudheeran have already indicated that Mani will do his job as finance minister in the assembly. But with the protests now going to spill out on the streets, it remains to be seen if Mani will be able to celebrate his 82 birthday on the 30th of this month with cheer.