The controversies surrounding the much hyped liquor ban has taken yet another interesting turn with revelations about Finance Minister K M Mani involved in graft leaking out.
Mani has landed himself in a whirlpool of trouble after Biju Ramesh, the Bar Hotel Association Working President, revealed on Friday night on a TV channel that he demanded bribe to reopen the closed 418 bars. The shocking revelation came hours after a Kerala High Court bench suspended a single-judge bench's verdict that directed just 62 of the 730 bars in the state to operate. Ramesh, owner of five bars, said that Rs 5 crore was asked by Mani, out of which Rs 1 crore was paid in two installments at his Pala home in Kottayam district. He said that he is ready to present the evidences before the Court despite the tremendous pressure from several quarters to lie low. The Minister was putting more pressure for the remaining Rs 4 crore which was not paid due to the Cabinet decision of keeping the bars closed.
Mani, a leader of Kerala Congress (M), has been a cabinet Minister with both the rival fronts, and rejected the charges as ‘baseless’ and said that he suspected ‘ulterior motives’. The government has ordered a vigilance probe into the matter following letter by Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan to the Vigilance Director. Achuthanandan said that it was not only Mani, but several other Ministers were also involved in the graft. The Left parties in the state have also demanded Mani’s resignation. CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan too has come forward demanding Mani’s resignation.
The government decision to shut down all the bars in the state except the five and four star bars as a part of total liquor prohibition was hugely welcomed by the people. Even though the Chief Minister had earlier said that the bars would be permitted to remain open if the standard was improved, the government decided to stick on to the decision and move ahead after the demand for strengthening the liquor ban increased from all quarters. Therefore, the fact that the people from the ruling party itself is making attempts to create obstacles in the process by aiding in the reopening of the closed bars, is cynical. Mani who strongly denied all the allegations is backed the CM as well Sudheeran. The blame games are continuing with the Congress blamed for the conspiracy. Chief Whip P C George’s statement that it was not Mani but someone else who took the bribe reinforces the allegations. The LDF stance in the matter is at the same time intriguing as well as skeptical as there are chances of Mani switching allegiance to the Left Front in lieu of Chief Ministership for a certain period.
It is a shame that a decision benefitting people is being toppled by the persons in the government who instead of resolving the case through proper investigation, is hurling allegations against each other and extending support for the Ministers involved in such acts. The government should bring out the truth fearlessly and not let the people lose their faith in it.