With a confrontation looming large between the ruling UDF and the LDF in Kerala on budget day Friday, finance minister KM Mani stayed back in the assembly complex on Thursday night to thwart the Opposition's attempt to prevent him from delivering his speech.
As the Opposition LDF made it clear that all roads leading to the assembly would be blocked in order to protest bar bribe charges against Mani, security was tightened and the entire assembly area was cordoned off on Thursday evening.
The finance minister's office said Mani was staying back in the assembly complex as "priority before him is to present the budget tomorrow (Friday)".
Besides Mani, some ministers and UDF MLAs also stayed back to express solidarity with the finance minister.
The CPI(M)-led LDF members also decided to stay inside the assembly as part of their stir even after it was adjourned for the day after a commotion in the afternoon, leading to a tense situation. Home minister Ramesh Chennithala said the government would face the stir sternly if it turns violent.
The LDF claimed thousands of volunteers would take part in the "protest resistance" to be staged outside the assembly complex.
Aggravating the situation, the BJP's youth wing, Yuva Morcha, also announced plans to stage a dharna before the assembly.
Earlier on Thursday, chief minister Oommen Chandy took up the challenge of the Opposition, maintaining that the charges against Mani were part of a "political conspiracy" and asserted that the minister himself would present the budget.
Reacting to his stand, CPI(M) veteran and Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan said the government would have to face the consequences if it let a "tainted" Mani present the budget and Chandy alone would be responsible for that.
Mani (82) has debunked the Opposition's charges and said his 50-year-long public life is transparent. Vigilance and the Anti-Corruption Bureau had registered a case against Mani in December 2014 in connection with the charges that he had accepted bribes from bar owners to renew liquor licences.
The allegations were levelled by Kerala state Bar Hotel Owner's Association working president Biju Ramesh.