Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy is facing a double whammy as not only did his party receive a setback in the recently held local body election, his cabinet’s finance minister KM Mani also had to resign over corruption allegations. HT’s Ramesh Babu caught up with the Congress leader who said these were only temporary setbacks and an “innocent” Mani will soon make a political comeback.
Did finance minister KM Mani’s exit further dent the ruling front’s image?
No. I personally feel Mani is innocent and he will soon be proven clean. His resignation has set a precedent for others. He quit his post to uphold a moral high ground. The court did say that there was no direct evidence to show that he had either demanded or accepted a bribe. But the court made some observations against him and he quit on his own.
Is it true that the Congress high command had to intervene in the matter?
It is incorrect. The high command never gave me any directive in this regard. What the party spokesman said in Delhi was that the problem would be sorted in the state as the state leaders were capable of doing it.
Biju Ramesh, who pulled down Mani, has now accused excise minister K Babu of also accepting bribe.
He’s been saying this for the last one year. If he has any evidence let him approach a competent authority. It is not the government’s duty to collect evidence. You can’t rundown a government citing frivolous charges. Vigilance department, which examined his allegation, found that there was no truth in it.
There are reports that Mani was shown the door because he tried to become the CM with the help of the Left.
There is no dearth of theories in the state. A section of the media also plays a key role in making a non-issue an issue by highlighting only one side. Where is R Balakrishna Pillai (Kerala Congress leader) now? Achuthanandan fought a case against him for long and sent him to jail. Now Pillai is in the LDF camp. You can’t have two different parameters for corruption. As the election date nears, opposition LDF continues to come out with fresh allegations. People won’t fall in their trap.
Will you again be in charge if the UDF wins the April- assembly polls?
That is a not a matter of concern. My mandate is for five years. It is for the party leadership and the elected MLAs to decide who they want as their leader.
BJP managed to improve its tally in the local body poll from 6% in 2010 to 16% in 2015. Does that worry you?
It is a temporary win. The saffron party can’t make any inroads in the state in the near future. Its divisive politics continues to get exposed. A party cannot tell people what to eat and what not to.
What will be your main plank for the upcoming assembly elections?
We will highlight the work done by us in the last five From Kochi’s metro rail to the Kannur airport, we will list all the developmental work carried out by us. The days of empty slogans are behind us.