Pala (Kerala) | Kerala Congress (M) supremo and former Finance Minister K M Mani is all set to contest the May 16 polls for the record 13th time from the Pala constituency, where he had won in the last 12 assembly polls.
Mani, 83, one of the senior most politicians of Kerala, also holds the rare distinction of celebrating the golden jubilee of his long legislature career in the state Assembly.
Beginning his poll victory in 1965 from Pala in Kottayam district, he has won all consecutive 11 elections in 1967, 1970, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011. A law graduate, Mani also holds the record of presenting the maximum number of budgets in the Kerala assembly.
However Mani, who never tasted defeat in his poll career and a strongman in UDF as supremo of KC(M), the third largest partner in the Front, faced an unprecedented political turmoil as Finance Minister last year and had to quit office following charges in the bar bribery scam in November 2015.
Mani, who has all along rejected the charges as baseless, is now back in the poll arena in Pala constituency, which has always stood by him in the last 50 years since its inception. Located in Central Travancore, Pala has a sizeable Roman Catholic population and is also a land of rubber farmers.
Despite criticisms and allegations by his rivals, the political veteran seems to have no doubt about his victory this time also, considering his long association with the people of the segment. On the other hand, his main rival candidate, LDF NCP’s Mani C Kappan, a noted film personality, is hopeful of creating history in the constituency by giving a drubbing to Mani, who won the 2011 assembly polls by just over 5,000 votes.
It is also significant that LDF is fielding Kappan, who gave a tough fight to Mani in 2006 and 2011 elections, again in the segment to wrest the seat from KC(M) stronghold. Kappan’s confidence stems from the fact that he got 44.92 per cent of total votes polled last time while Mani got 49.14 per cent.
The NCP leader said people desire a change and so would vote in favour of LDF in the coming polls. NDA candidate N Hari is also in the fray, making the fight a triangular one. Though NDA had earlier proposed former union minister P C Thomas, heading a fraction of Kerala Congress, as its candidate to take on Mani, Thomas withdrew, citing some personal reasons.
Political observers feel Thomas’s decision to withdraw from the contest would go in favour of Mani. Being an agrarian constituency, fall in rubber price is a major campaign issue in the constituency, with the opposition charging Mani with failing to do anything for rubber growers.
However, Mani has countered the allegations by listing out a number of schemes to help the farmers, especially the one that ensured Rs 150 per kg for rubber.