Fifty years of legislative business and going strong. Kerala Congress chairman K M Mani (84), one of the longest serving legislators in the country, has completed half a century as MLA, that too representing a single constituency without fail.
No wonder chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan dubbed him as the Fred Rissar (Wisconsin senator who completed his half a century a couple of years back) of Kerala, lauding his long innings. Mani’s studiousness and his attempt to learn something new even at this age was remarkable, he said.
“It is doubtful whether anyone can break Mani’s record. Young politicians will have to learn a lot from him,” the CM said lauding the old war horse.
Assembly speaker P Sreeramakrishnan said Mani has set a big record in legislative history of the country. For any doubt in legislative proceedings or rules, members frequent him and he has answers on his fingertips.
Often called as ‘Palayude Manikyam’ (Diamond of Pala, an assembly constituency in Christian-dominated central Kerala district Kottayam), Mani holds another record. He held finance portfolio for the longest period and presented 13 state budgets. His opponents tried their best to interrupt his free run from Pala on several occasions but failed.
Hailing from the land of rubber, his politics also carries the elasticity of the milk-based plant. The party he founded suffered many splits—five splinter groups of the party are active in the state now. Despite many splits and mergers, he lorded over the Christian heartland. His son Jose K Mani is the sitting MP from Kottayam.
In his long political career, he never faced major blemishes but two years back he tripped in bar bribery row. Many bar hotel owners claimed that he allegedly took money for a favourable liquor policy. But when the government banned all bar hotels, except five-stars, they cried foul blaming Mani, then finance minister, for not keeping his promise.
He was forced to quit the Chandy cabinet in 2015 after the high court passed strictures against him. A year later, he left the Congress-led UDF camp blaming a section of Congress leaders for defaming him. Now the bar bribery case is in court.
During the last parliament election, speculation was strong that he will move to the saffron camp. Though the BJP wooed him vigorously and sent many emissaries, he did not succumb.
“I never thought of any such move. My party will keep its identity and remain aloof from coalition politics at least for some time,” he said scoffing rumours.
Mani started his career as a lawyer and later joined the Congress. When the Congress split after the death of senior leader P T Chacko in the late 1960s, he joined the new party, Kerala Congress. Though the party suffered many splits and mergers, he remained on top and maintained good relations with the church.
“You have to devote your life for people. My strength always remained my people. If you do your homework properly and take people into confidence, you can surge ahead,” he said, warning upcoming politicians that there is no shortcut in politics.
Though he worked with many leaders, he said he fondly remembers two CMs: C Achutha Menon for his simplicity and administrative acumen, and K Karuankaran for his dexterity and strong will.