Kottayam, Kerala: Veteran Kerala Congress leader KM Mani, who died in Kottayam today, had been a dominant player in Kerala's coalition politics for over four decades, serving under six Chief Ministers. He was a successful practitioner of pragmatic politics and had handled key portfolios like finance for most Congress-led UDF governments, which came to power alternatively since the late 1970s.
He also had brief stint as a minister in the CPI(M)-led LDF ministry in early 1980s.
A man of wit and humour, KM Mani, who was elected to the Kerala Legislative Assembly for the first time in 1965 from Pala constituency of Kottayam district, never lost an election and continued to represent the constituency till his death.
He held several key portfolios, including Home Affairs, Finance and Law, Irrigation and law, Revenue and Law in various ministries headed by stalwarts in Kerala politics including C Achutha Menon, PK Vasudevan Nair, K Karunakaran, EK Nayanar, AK Antony and Oommen Chandy.
KM Mani had been a Minister for 24 years in various ministries and as the Finance Minister, presented 13 budgets in the state assembly. His opponents in the Kerala Congress politics have always accused him of engineering splits in the regional party for his political benefits.
About the phenomenon of frequent splits in the Kerala Congress and emergence of Kerala Congress with varying suffixes, KM Mani once famously said: "We are a party that splits as we grow and grows as we split".
A lawyer by profession, KM Mani wielded considerable clout among people of the Syrian Catholic community in Kottayam and Idukki districts, ever since he emerged as a powerful leader in the 1970s in the Kerala Congress, which has its roots among the farmers in the erstwhile Travancore region.
KM Mani-led Kerala Congress(M) is the largest among nearly nine political outfits having the name of Kerala Congress with varying suffixes and is the third largest constituent in the Congress-led UDF in the state.
He was forced to quit as Finance Minister from the Oomen Chandy-led government in November 2015 following the Kerala High Courts observations against him in the bar bribery case casting a shadow over his career.