Opposition's muted attack on Saseendran and M M Mani's loaded barbs

MM Mani and AK Saseendran
MM Mani and AK Saseendran

It was speculated that, angered by the presence of forest minister A K Saseendran in the House, the Opposition would swarm the Speaker's podium and disrupt the Assembly's functioning on the first day of the second Assembly session on Thursday.

That the Saseendran issue would explode like a bomb inside the Assembly seemed a foregone conclusion. The battle lines were already drawn; the LDF had thrown its weight behind the minister and Opposition leader V D Satheesan had given an ultimatum of sorts saying that Saseendran should not be in the House when the session began.

But when the day began, things looked surreally civil. There were no placards demanding Saseendran's resignation, like it was usual for the Opposition under Ramesh Chennithala. And the first hour of the day, the Question Hour, went smoothly, even with Saseendran around. Right after the Question Hour, the Opposition raised the Saseendran issue like they would any controversial topic, as an adjournment motion.

The Opposition speakers did sink their teeth into the minister and the chief minister but their chewing sounded more studious than vehement, as if they were assessing the taste of some exotic dish rather than hungrily enjoying a meal.

They did have strong, convincing arguments, which were forcefully articulated by Kundara MLA P C Vishnunath and Opposition Leader V D Satheesan. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had to even concede that the police had erred in not promptly filing a first information report.

Forest Minister AK Saseendran
Forest Minister AK Saseendran

Still, there was a feeling the Opposition was merely performing a mandatory ritual. It looked as though they wanted to get over with the process. Once the ritual of the adjournment motion was over, Saseendran was almost fully forgotten. The minister's name was not mentioned even during the nearly four hour discussion on 'demands for grants' that followed.

Earlier there were whispers that since the victim had BJP links, the Congress was not too keen on striking hard at Saseendran. But it also seems that the lack of sting had less to do with the BJP and more to do with the line up of opposition speakers for the adjournment motion.

Except for Satheesan, the rest of the Opposition speakers were earlier embroiled in some kind of sleaze scandal. Vishnunath, who moved the adjournment motion, was accused by the Solar scam accused, Saritha, of collecting bribes from her.

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Kunhalikutty and V D Satheeshan. File photos

Just when he got up to move the motion, CPM's Varkala MLA V P Joy questioned Vishnunath's moral authority to speak on such an issue. The two leaders who made their walk out speeches after the opposition leader would have found the situation even more embarrassing. One of them, Muslim League Parliamentary Party leader P K Kunhalikutty, was once accused in the infamous ice-cream parlour sex scandal. The other, Kerala Congress leader P J Joseph, was once accused of inappropriate behaviour by a woman during a flight.

MM Mani
MM Mani

The ruling benches would have enjoyed the UDF's predicament but it was former power minister M M Mani who expressed it openly in his scathing rustic manner.

"See who is speaking about female protection," Mani said, rubbing his hands in glee. "Take the honourable Vishnunath. After the scandal that took place during Oommen Chandy's time, he fled from here and was given charge in Karnataka. For a long time he couldn't come here. It is highly welcome that such a person has moved an adjournment motion on the issue of women's security," he said.

He upped his sarcasm. "Then, who was the person who came forward to argue for women's safety," he asked. "Our honourable Kunhalikutty sahib," he said with a throaty laugh. "Even better," he said. "Then there is P J Joseph. How is it? Isn't it wonderful my dear friends," he declared.

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