Thiruvananthapuram | As the bar bribe scam continues to haunt Kerala’s ruling Congress-led UDF, the front’s liaison committee is expected to meet soon as the estranged partners Kerala Congress (M) and Kerala Congress (B) kept up mutual wranglings denting the coalition’s image.
A day after audio tapes of conversation between KC(B) leader R Balakrishna Pillai and hotelier Biju Ramesh were aired by television channels bringing the front under a cloud, UDF convener P P Thankachan had a brief discussion with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and said the UDF meeting would be convened soon.
Unruffled by reports that Kerala Congress (M), led by Finance Minister K M Mani, wanted the KC(B) to be expelled from UDF, Pillai dared the front leadership to take action against his party. Addressing a press meet here, Pillai said he would welcome if he was ousted from the UDF but asserted that he would be more powerful once he was out of the coalition.
Let the UDF take action against me. I only want to say once I am ousted from UDF I would become more powerful, 79-year-old Pillai, a founder-leader of the coalition, said. The bar bribe scam, which pertains to graft allegation against Mani levelled by a leading hotelier, took a murkier turn yesterday with TV channels airing telephone tapes in which Pillai asked hotelier Biju Ramesh to go ahead with his graft charge against Mani.
Pillai later confirmed its authenticity and claimed he had already told these things to Chandy, which the latter refuted. Rattling the UDF Ministry, Ramesh had alleged three months ago that Mani had been given a hefty sum on the promise that he would help in re-opening some of the closed liquor bars. Based on the allegation, the government initially ordered a quick verification and later lodged an FIR for a detailed investigation.
Mani, who handles Finance and Law in the ministry, had rubbished the charge, asserting Ramesh had no credibility as he had been making contradictory statements on the issue. Though Pillai’s KC(B) continues to be a UDF partner, the party had no presence in the ministry after its lone legislator K B Ganesh Kumar was forced to quit after facing allegations of domestic rift.
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