K.M. Mani may quit Congress-led UDF in Kerala2 min read . Updated: 01 Aug 2016, 08:31 PM IST
The move, if happens, will be a setback for the Congress, as the opposition's clout will be considerably reduced both inside and outside the assembly
Bengaluru/New Delhi: K.M. Mani, former Kerala finance minister and the longest-serving legislator in the state, may soon quit the opposition alliance along with his five MLAs, local media reported.
Mani’s party—Kerala Congress-Mani, or KC(M)—is a key constituent of the Congress-led United Democratic Front or UDF, but the legislator, who was forced to resign as finance minister in the last government following a bribery scandal, is miffed that the front did not stand by him in his hour of crisis.
Local news channel Mathrubhumi Monday reported that Mani, a legislator for 50 years, has decided to sever ties with the UDF. The move, if happens, will be a setback for the Congress, as the opposition’s clout will be considerably reduced both inside and outside the assembly.
In the last few days, 83-year-old Mani has spoken out about his differences with the Congress. According to a Congress leader who spoke on condition of anonymity, Mani has refused to talk to Congress leaders including leader of the opposition Ramesh Chennithala, who tried to talk to him over the phone Monday morning.
According to this leader, KC (M) is unlikely to join the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) since the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM that leads the front has been its chief enemy when Mani was battling bribery charges. KC(M) may remain independent of either front, or join the National Democratic Alliance led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he added. If Mani indeed leaves the alliance, it won’t be unexpected but the development will hurt the Congress the most, he said.
In the 2016 Kerala assembly election, the UDF had lost power, with its seats down to 47 from the previous 72 in the 140-member assembly. Nationally also, the grand old party is struggling—it is in power only in six states, independently or in alliances.
Mani was unavailable for comment. However, party general secretary Joy Abraham told reporters on Sunday night that at a meeting of all stakeholders, including MLAs and MPs, there was consensus to sit as a separate bloc in the assembly.
KC (M) is considered to have a strong support of Christians in Kerala, especially in the central Kerala districts such as Kottayam and Idukki. In the last few decades, it has been with the UDF.
Senior Congress leaders in Delhi said Mani has been in talks with party’s state unit and while he hasn’t indicated clear reasons as to why he is unhappy, he has signalled he may exit the party soon.
“His party is organising a convention in Kerala on 6-7 August and he has conveyed to us that he will announce his decision of quitting or staying back in that convention. We are out of power now and Mani also has corruption charges on him; these two could be the possible reason why he wants to quit UDF," said a senior Congress leader, aware of developments.
During the previous government, Mani refused to resign as finance minister for about an year after the bribery allegations surfaced, but relented towards the end of the government’s term end when a court order asked to book him in a related case.
KC (M)’s version is that the allegation was actually a Congress conspiracy to discredit Mani, as its youth front alleged in a letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in July. Mani has gone public with his differences with the Congress, especially after former chief minister Oommen Chandy attended a wedding in the family of Biju Ramesh, who had accused Mani of corruption.