CPI(M) acting State secretary, A. Vijayaraghavan, on Tuesday, sought to put to rest the latest controversy over the name and legacy of late Kerala Congress (M) leader K. M. Mani.
Mr. Vijayaraghavan stepped out of the CPI(M) State Secretariat meeting to deny media reports that the Kerala government’s counsel in the Supreme Court had portrayed Mr. Mani as a “corrupt Finance Minister”.
The State government had sought the Supreme Court’s permission to withdraw the criminal charges slapped against six Left Democratic Front (LDF) legislators for disrupting the Assembly during the budget presentation on March 13, 2015. At the time, K. M. Mani was the finance minister.
Certain sections of the media alleged that the State government’s standing counsel had depicted K. M. Mani as “corrupt” to justify the LDF’s conduct on the floor of the House.
The news reports that dominated the airwaves had threatened to cast a pall of mistrust over the party’s delicate relationship with KC(M), a recent coalition partner.
Moreover, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) Opposition had sought to pressurise KC(M) leader Jose. K. Mani, to disavow the CPI(M) for “sullying” his father’s memory.
Mr. Vijayaraghavan said the media had distorted the proceedings in the SC. The Government has filed no statement accusing K. M. Mani of corruption.
Back-to-back anti-corruption enquiries had absolved K. M. Mani of any “personal culpability” in the bar bribery case. The LDF had agitated in the Assembly against the entrenched corruption in the then UDF government.
Moreover, the KC(M) had parted ways with the UDF. It had rejected the UDF’s corruption and active pursuance of anti-farmer neo-liberal policies.
The UDF had conspired with a section of the anti-government media to drive a wedge between the CPI(M) and KC(M), Mr. Vijayaraghavan said.
The KC(M) leadership is huddled together for a closed-door meeting in Kottayam. Irrigation Minister Roshy Augustine and Mr. Jose were present. They were likely to make a statement.
Kerala Congress (Joseph) group leader, Monce Joseph, MLA, dared Mr. Jose to quit the LDF to defend K. M. Mani’s honour. Congress legislator Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said the episode had revealed the duplicity of the CPI(M) in its dealings with LDF partners. He said K. M. Mani was one of the founding leaders of the UDF. The opposition had a right to defend its late leader, he said.
The LDF had in 2015 accused K. M of having lost the moral right to present the budget by allegedly accepting bribes from the hotelier’s association to reopen scores of bars shuttered for maintaining poor hygiene standards. The so-called bar-bribery case had rocked the Oomen Chandy government.
The police case was that the LDF opposition had destroyed microphones, computers, grappled with the watch and ward and toppled the Speaker’s chair to deter K.M. Mani from delivering the Budget speech. The images of the destruction in the Assembly had remained etched in public memory. They cast the LDF leaders in a poor light.
The case found its way to the SC after the Chief Judicial Magistrate-Thiruvananthapuram and, later, the Kerala High Court rejected the State’s plea to withdraw the litigation.
The police had booked the LDF leaders under the Prevention of Destruction of Public Property Act and sections 447 (criminal trespass) and 427 (mischief causing damage) of the Indian Penal Code.
They had named E. P. Jayarajan, V. Sivankutty, C. K. Sadasivam, Kunjahammed Master, all Communist Party of India (Marxist) members, K. Ajith of the CPI and K. T. Jaleel, an LDF independent, as accused in the case. Mr. Sivankutty is currently the Minister for General Education.