THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Friday, March 13, 2015, could well be termed not only as a Black Day in the history of Kerala politics, but also the most unforgettable day in the about seven-decade long political career of Karingozhackal Mani Mani. On a day when the Assembly witnessed unprecedented violence over his 13th Budget presentation, KM Mani had a rather strange experience, wherein he managed to wrap up the budget presentation in six minutes flat, after the then Speaker N Sakthan gestured him to do so.
Mani was presenting his 13th budget at the 13th session of the 13th Kerala Assembly at the time. Encircled by both the ruling UDF MLAs and the Watch and Ward staff, Mani read out a six-minute long speech amidst the din. What’s more, he even thanked the Opposition Left Front for the ‘cooperation’ extended to him over the budget presentation! After the 45-minute long drama, sweets were also distributed in the House.
One of the longest-serving politicians in the state, who has time and again proved his mettle as a political Houdini of sorts, KM Mani had his most bitter experience towards the fag end of his political career. The bar bribery scam, a storm unleashed by the hotelier Biju Ramesh on the night of October 31, 2014 remained a blemish in his otherwise well-orchestrated career.
Curiously, the allegations came up at a time when there were indications that the CPM was trying to woo him to the Left fold amidst stiff opposition from the CPI. The same Left Front that had once upon a time been his biggest critic was then seen showering him with praises galore. A political enigma that he was, KM Mani, affectionately called ‘Mani Sir’ by many - even he used to refer to himself as Mani Sir - was able to rise again from the ashes, though not completely unscathed this time around.
A real political tactician who never flinched in the face of controversies and crises, Mani has had the rare honour of being part of both political fronts in the state for long. The ‘Pala member’ as he was once termed by PC George in the Assembly, first won an Assembly seat in 1965 and has been part of the House ever since.
The origin and history of Kerala Congress has an intrinsic link with Mani’s own political career. Known for his ‘survival’ politics in turbulent times, Mani was notorious for jumping the political fence within 24 hours in the 80s, when the then Antony group quit the Left Front.
Even with a history of political records in his kitty, it was no secret that Mani nurtured high hopes of being part of the national political scenario. Once he even attempted to join the 1989 Chandrashekar government, but couldn’t do so. Later during the AB Vajpayee government, there were rumours that K M Mani would move to the national politics, but that too petered off.
The once subtle hints from the Kerala Congress to the BJP-led NDA became evident when the saffron party was trying to find a foothold in the state. After leaving the UDF, there were reports that the Mani group may move to the NDA.
CM post: Many a slip between the cup and the lip
KOCHI: As the old adage goes, there were many slips between the cup and the lip in K M Mani’s life. He lost the opportunity to adorn the chair of the Chief Minister thrice in his lifetime. When A K Antony resigned as CM in 1978, protesting his party’s decision to support Indira Gandhi in the Chikamagalur Lok Sabha byelection, Mani was tipped as the CM. However, a section of the Congress leaders supported CH Mohammed Koya who assumed office as CM on October 20, 1978. However, Koya resigned from the post two months later on December 1, 1978. Once again, Mani’s name was suggested and he was willing to take over as CM.
This time, the Congress recommended dissolution of the Assembly denying him the opportunity. In 2015, when the Oommen Chandy Government was mired in controversies over the solar scam and bar bribery scandal, there were rumours the Opposition CPM had offered Mani the CM’s post in a bid to topple the UDF. However, the CPI, a constituent of the LDF, was against admitting Mani into the LDF. In 2017, the KC(M) mouthpiece ‘Prathichaya’ acknowledged in an editorial the CPM had offered Mani the CM post but he was unwilling to cross over.