Mani non-committal on joining BJP-led NDA

Thiruvananthapuram : One of the country’s longest serving legislator K.M. Mani of Kerala, whose stock is currently low on various counts — like a few Vigilance Department probes against him and his exit from the Congress-led UDF alliance — is tightlipped about his future.

In an interaction with IANS, Mani remained non-committal on the public speculation that his party might join the NDA led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which he opposed all through since he became one of the founder leaders of the Congress-led United Democratic Front in 1982. Yet, at the same time did not firmly deny that he tilting towards the BJP.

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“Right now, we have decided to be on our own and we will be taking issues that come up, and then our party will make a decision,” said Mani.

Mani’s Kerala Congress-Mani — the third biggest component of the United Democratic Front — walked out of it in August. Since then there has been widespread speculation that he will join the NDA.

What lent some credence to the speculation is that KC-M has a member each in the two houses of parliament and if they tilt towards the NDA, one of Mani’s long standing desire of seeing his son Jose K. Mani — the Lok Sabha member from the Kottayam constituency — as a union minister would be fulfilled in the Narendra Modi cabinet.

Mani’s major grouse that prompted him to leave the UDF was that E. Ahamed of the Indian Union Muslim League, another component of the UDF, was a Union minister from 2004 to 2014, but his son was not made one during the decade-long Congress rule at the Centre.

“Let me make it very clear. At the moment, there has been no decision to move to any side. In simple terms it’s neither yes nor no, to the question if we are going to join the NDA. Let’s leave it at that,” said Mani.

As the fresh assembly session began on Monday, Mani and his party’s five other legislators sat as a separate block and each time the Congress-led opposition took a stand against Chief MInister Pinarayi Vijayan’s government, Mani and his group did not go along with the UDF, but walked out of the house.

Incidentally, in the past when the country was led by Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar for a brief period during 1990-91, speculation was rife that Mani would be made a Union minister. But he believes that the proposal was shot down by the Congress party, which propped up the Chandra Shekhar government.

Mani, 83, has been a member of the Kerala assembly since 1967, representing the Palai assembly constituency in Kottayam district. He has also the distinction of having presented 13 Kerala state budgets.