Kerala Assembly today witnessed unprecedented atrocities and chaotic scenes as CPI (M)- led Opposition MLAs used force in their efforts to prevent Finance Minister KM Mani, who is facing bribery charges in bar licence case, from presenting his 13th budget. Mani, who stayed overnight in the Assembly complex with his ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) colleagues, entered the Assembly Hall through the backdoor while the Left Democratic Front (LDF) MLAs were busy blocking the front entrance to keep the Speaker and the minister at bay.
Moments before Mani entered the Hall, there were scuffles and push-and-pull between LDF members and the Watch and Ward guard, and a few of the MLAs ran on to the Speaker’s dais and threw his chair into the well of the Assembly before dismantling computer and electronic gadgets on his table. Even former ministers and senior leaders like MA Baby and Thomas Isaac were in the forefront pushing the security personnel out of the hall. L Sivankutty MLA stood on a chair shouting in protest before he suffered a mild concussion and was carried out of the Assembly on a stretcher.
Women MLAs were also in the forefront of the protest often ending up in jostling with UDF members. Nine Opposition MLAs were reportedly injured in the scuffle. Once Mani was in the Hall, the Speaker from his chamber asked the minister to present the budget. Mani, fitted with a wireless mike, spoke for six minutes to the loud applause from the UDF members, who soon distributed laddoos to mark a moral victory over the Opposition. Mani later met reporters to brief them on his budget.
Meanwhile, protest marches by hundreds of LDF and Yuva Morcha workers outside the Assembly building turned violent and police used water cannons and grenade to disperse the crowd, who responded pelting stones. A few metres down, a police van was set on fire at the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation’s depot at Vikas Bhavan, opposite the office of the District Police Superintend. Leader of Opposition, VS Achuthanandan, also met the media and explained what went on in the Assembly, categorically calling Mani corrupt.
Pinarayi Vijayan, who has recenly stepped down as CPM’s state secretary after 16 years, said if the laddoo distribution was the way a budget was tabled, then the budget could not be accepted. Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau had registered a case against Mani in December last year in connection with the allegations that he had accepted bribe from bar owners to renew liquor licences as per allegations levelled by Kerala state Bar Hotel Owner’s Association Working President Biju Ramesh.