The Supreme Court's rejection of Kerala government's request to withdraw cases against MLAs who had vandalised the Assembly in 2015 had come in handy for the Opposition to not just call for education minister V Sivankutty's ouster. It was also an opportunity to recall the CPM's public humiliation of K M Mani and, thereby, embarrass both the CPM and its new ally Kerala Congress (Mani) inside the Assembly.
The LDF Government had already found itself in an uneasy situation when its counsel told the Supreme Court last month that the MLAs were protesting against the corruption of the then finance minister (K M Mani). The very next day, after the KC(M) smouldered, the counsel told the Court that the agitation was against the corrupt UDF regime.
This change of stand was sought to be exposed in the Assembly on Thursday. "You first told the court that the agitation was to prevent a corrupt K M Mani from presenting the Budget and so should be exempted. When the Kerala Congress objected, you changed tack," Opposition Leader V D Satheesan said and added: "But how can you paint the agitation as against the UDF government when you had, as a compromise formula, offered to let the then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to present the Budget."
He then quoted what the then Opposition Leader said in the Assembly in the run up to the Budget Day in 2015. "What the Opposition Leader says is generally considered the policy of the Opposition," Satheesan prefaced his reference to Achuthanandan's Mani tirade.
Then, Satheesan said Achuthanandan had quoted the Bible saying Mani would wallow in a hell of unquenchable fires and undying worms. (Mani who normally responds to criticism calmly was then badly provoked. It was March 10, three days before the ill-fated Budget presentation. With visible irritation, Mani said: "Hearing VS speak, I am reminded of the anti-christ. It is said that a time will come when the devil will quote from the Bible.")
There was yet another speech of Achuthanandan's where he repeatedly said "Kozha Mani (bribe Mani), Kozha Mani" , Satheesan said. Satheesan quoted from Achuthanandan's speech: "Though Mani was the one who took the bribe and fattened his pocket, the shame of it is now borne by the whole of Kerala. K M Mani might not be feeling any shame because he was just doing what he had been doing all along for the last 50 years. Earlier, no one knew about these things. Now realisation has dawned and Mani's fraud has been exposed."
Satheesan then quoted yet another Assembly speech where Achuthanandan describes Mani. "Bribe-taker Mani. Mani who has kept a note-counting machine in his house. Mani who sells the Budget for money. We will not allow such a person whose face has been vulgarised by such dishonourable deeds to present the Budget in the Assembly. Mr Oommen Chandy, why are you so keen on making such a disgraceful person who had sold the dignity of the State to present the Budget."
Then, placing the paper down, Satheesan turned to Roshy Augustine, KC(M)'s minister, and asked: "After hearing this, aren't you ashamed of yourself to continue in this cabinet. This is what the CPM had said about your K M Mani. Has anyone in the world ever uttered such things about your leader? Has anyone ever dealt such humiliation to your leader?"
Satheesan told the KC(M) members that the CPM had now held you close. "But it is a deadly embrace," he said.
It was left to KC(M)'s Changanassery MLA Job Michael to respond. Michael said the case against K M Mani was the result of the conspiracy hatched by Congress leaders. "It was the Congress that betrayed us. It was this realisation that prompted us to cut our ties with the UDF in 2016 itself," he said.
Michael referred to Satheesan's earlier remark about the LDF's deadly embrace and said the deadly embrace was in reality that of the UDF leaders. "They had come to Mani sir's house during the Chengannur byelection (in 2018) and asked him to return to the UDF. Then we didn't know that the show of friendliness was a trap to politically destroy him and his party," Michael said.
Then, using a travel metaphor, he said the UDF had pushed them out of the bus before they could reach Thiruvananthapuram. "They chucked us out at Kottarakkara. But we then got into a sleek and popular, fully air conditioned bus, the LDF bus," he said.