Kerala’s Assembly is witnessing an unprecedented battle of wits between the government and opposition with representatives of both, including the Finance Minister, staying inside the complex overnight to attend Budget day Friday.
The CPM-led opposition is firm that it would not let K M Mani present his 13th Budget, pointing to the recent bribery allegations raised against the Minister by some of the state’s prominent bar-owners relating to the new liquor policy.
But Mani appeared to be in no mood to give in, so much so that the leader of Kerala Congress (M), a key ruling ally, broke a long-standing family tradition and attended Mass in the state capital on Thursday, instead of on the morning of the Budget.
Already, hundreds of LDF and BJP’s Yuva Morcha workers have laid siege to the Assembly complex, where around 2,000 policemen have been deployed to tackle the situation.
Police pickets have been erected in several other parts of the city, which have also been brought under camera surveillance.
The opposition had earlier threatened to block all roads and entrances leading to the complex to prevent Mani’s entry. But now, with the Minister staying inside, the plan is to block him at the five entry points to the Assembly hall.
Speaking to reporters, LDF convener Vaikkom Vishwan said that Mani would not be allowed to present the Budget “at any cost”.
“We have planned to block Mani. He has decided to stay inside the Assembly complex. However, our legislators will not allow him to present the Budget on Friday,” he said.
On the other hand, MLAs from the ruling UDF alliance said they would ensure the Minister’s smooth entry into the Assembly hall.
“If Mani manages to enter the Assembly hall, the LDF MLAs will try their best to disrupt the Budget presentation. The opposition will confront Assembly security staff and the ruling members,” sources in the CPM said.
Earlier, as the crisis began to snowball, Mani insisted that he would stay at his official residence as usual and come to the Assembly on Friday morning to present the Budget.
However, he was advised to stay back at the Assembly complex by CM Oommen Chandy and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala because of the “volatile situation”.
The latest twist to the long-running tussle between the bar-owners and Mani came with the release of an audio recording in which some of the owners allegedly indicate that some Congress ministers had accepted money from them.