Thiruvananthapuram | A crucial meeting of ruling Congress led UDF leaders scheduled to be held here tomorrow, would discuss, among other things, the political fallout of the vigilance case against Finance Minister K M Mani in the ‘bar bribe scam’ and strategy to counter the opposition LDF agitation on the matter.
The UDF meet, first after the vigilance wing registered the case against the Kerala Congress(M) supremo, is likely to extend full support to him, holding that Mani need not resign on the political pressure of LDF, UDF sources said. In an embarrassment to the 81yearold Mani, the Vigilance and AntiCorruption Bureau filed an FIR in a special court here after a preliminary inquiry on the allegation of a bar owner that Mani had taken bribe of Rs one crore for ensuring reopening of closed bars.
Though both Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and KPCC President V M Sudheeran have already said there was no need for Mani to resign just on the basis of the FIR, the UDF meet would formally express its solidarity with the minister. KC(M), a key partner in the Front, is reportedly aggrieved that Mani did not get due political support from the Congress when the charges were raised against him.
CPIMled LDF has demanded Mani’s resignation or asked the Chief Minister to drop him from the Ministry. Another major issue to be taken up for discussion would be the corruption allegation levelled by a minor partner of the Front, Kerala Congress(B) MLA K B Ganesh Kumar against the office of Public Works Department Ministry headed by V K Ebrahim Kunju of the Indian Union Muslim League.
The UDF is not happy the way in which Kumar raised the issue in the Assembly and was of the view that Kumar had violated coalition principles. Congress is likely to seek action against Kumar, according to UDF sources.
The practical changes to be made to the new liquor policy would be another major topic in the UDF meet agenda. The meeting assumes significance as IUML, Socialist Janata Democratic and a section of leaders in the Congress, including Sudheeran, are of the opinion that there is no need for any change in the liquor policy, while Chandy has stated that government wanted to make certain practical changes.
Chandy has said court observations on the issue and difficulties faced by the tourism sector were factors for making changes but asserted that it would be without altering the basis of the policy which aims to have total prohibition in stages. Sanctioning of beer and wine parlours to the closed bars now in the wake of the new policy is a matter pending before the UDF. This issue also would be taken up along with demand from Front partners such as Kerala Congress (J) to review the decision declaring Sundays as dry day in the state.
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