THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala Assembly began its session on Monday with senior leaders paying rich tributes to K.M. Mani who was an MLA for 52 long years and passed away last month.
Mani's record of being the longest-serving legislator in the Kerala Assembly began in 1967 when he was elected from his home constituency Pala in Kottayam district from where he won a record 13 elections.
Mani passed away at age 86 on April 9 after battling a lung ailment.
After taking oath for the first time on March 15, 1967, in the third Kerala Assembly, Mani, be it in the opposition or treasury benches was always seated in the front row.
Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan recalled that there would be none in Kerala politics who would fill the void created by Mani's death.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, cutting short a series of party meetings in Delhi after the Left's rout in the Lok Sabha elections, pointed out that "Mani Sir" often used to say that he learnt something every day by being present in the Assembly.
"A lot is there to be learned by everyone in politics from the life and times of Mani Sir," he said.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala described Mani as his political guru. "There will never be a leader in the stature of Mani Sir again in Kerala politics," he said.
Mani's long-time foe P.C. George said: "Even though we did not enjoy the best of relations, on most occasions, in the past year, it was I who held him by his hand and took him to his seat. Whenever he wanted to go out, I used to help him.
"When we walked, he used to ask me, 'George, are you angry with me?' and I used to tell him 'no' and he looked happy," said George, much to the amusement of the house.
Mani joined the undivided Kerala Congress in 1965 and went on to become its undisputed leader.
Mani first became a Minister in 1975 in the C. Achutha Menon cabinet and since then he sat in the cabinets of E.K. Nayanar, P.K. Vasudevan Nair, C.H. Mohammed Koya, K. Karunakaran, A.K. Antony and Oommen Chandy.
As a mark of respect after the obituary references, the day's session came to a close.