Thiruvananthapuram | The Congress leading the ruling UDF in Kerala today virtually favoured expelling minor partner Kerala Congress (B), from the coalition for its charges against Finance Minister K M Mani, facing allegations in the bar bribery scam, who also got full support from Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
The Government stand on the issue had been made clear earlier also. It has full confidence in Mani and he will present state budget for 2015-16 in the coming Assembly session, Chandy told reporters here after a cabinet meeting.
Earlier, KPCC spokesman M M Hassan said statements against the front leaders while remaining in UDF has created a crisis in the coalition, indicating that the Congress favoured ouster of KC(B).
Referring to KC(B) leader R Balakrishna Pillai’s statement that he would only be happy if removed from the Front, Hassan said, In the circumstances, the UDF should take steps to free him from the emotional clutches he has with the Front.
Demand for Pillai’s ouster from UDF has gained momentum after TV channels aired a controversial telephone conversation in which Pillai allegedly asked hotelier Biju Ramesh to go ahead with his graft charge agaisnt Mani. Chandy said the bar hotel owners, who levelled charges of bribery (against Mani) had not come forward with any evidence before the Vigilance Investigation team that was probing the issue.
He rejected the report that Vigilance ADGP Jacob Thomas heading the bar bribery probe has been shifted from the post by promoting him as DGP. The promotion given to Jacob Thomas was a routine one as per rule and he would continue to be in Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau, Chandy said.
To a question on Pillai’s charges against Mani and his challenge to UDF to remove him from the coalition, Chandy quipped things would be clear after the UDF liaison committee meeting on January 28.
Chandy also dismissed the reports that Bar bribery scam had dented the image of the Congress-led UDF Government. Meanwhile, Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan demanded the arrest of Mani and wanted police to take evidence from him. Mani’s continuation as a minister in the cabinet was a ‘great shame’ to three crore people of Kerala, the CPI-M veteran said. Achuthanandan alleged that Chandy had taken a stand of protecting corrupt persons instead of removing them.
The bar bribe scam, which pertains to graft allegation against Mani, levelled by the hotelier, took a new twist with TV channels airing telephone tapes of the conversation between Pillai and Ramesh. Pillai was also heard making new corruption charges against Mani during the conversion. In November last, Ramesh had alleged that Mani had been given a hefty sum on the promise that he would help in reopening some closed liquor bars. Based on the allegation, government initially ordered a quick verification’ and later lodged an FIR for a detailed probe.
Mani, who handles Finance and Law and supremo of key UDF constituent Kerala Congress (M), had rubbished the charge, asserting Ramesh had no credibility as he had been making contradictory statements on the issue. KC (B) has no presence in the ministry after its lone legislator K B Ganesh Kumar was forced to quit after facing allegations of domestic rift in 2013. It is not likely to get support from other partners.
KC-M has already demanded its ouster and IUML is also not happy with it after Kumar levelled corruption charges in the assembly against three staff members in the PWD Ministry headed by IUML’s E K Ebrahimkunju.
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