The Congress-led United Democratic Front, including Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, rallied behind state Finance Minister K M Mani on Saturday, a day after a bar owner made bribery charges against him. The opposition CPM too went soft on the regional Christian party leader, although it targeted Chandy.
With the CPM indicating that it did not want to attack Mani, the churning was within the Congress over the charges. After a party office-bearers’ meeting in Kottayam, Mani, who heads the Kerala Congress (M), said there was a clear agenda behind the “baseless” allegation.
On Friday night, prominent bar owner Biju Ramesh alleged that bar owners had paid a bribe of Rs 1 crore to Mani, who is also the Law Minister, for renewing the licences of 418 bars in Kerala.
Mani said his party viewed the conspiracy behind the allegation seriously and sought a probe into it. “I am not blaming any group in Congress,” he said, referring to his party leader P C George’s comments. George had blamed Chandy’s A group in Congress for the conspiracy.
Chandy played down the charge and gave a clean chit to Mani. He blasted Congress leader T N Prathapan for questioning Mani’s integrity. Later, Ramesh said he would move the high court in a week. “I have evidence to show Mani was given bribe,” he said.
From a departure from the past, CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan did not demand Mani’s resignation but attacked Chandy. “Chandy is going to gain from the controversy as there had been a demand in the UDF over making Mani the CM. The controversy has helped Chandy to overcome the threat to his post,” he said.