Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 1 :
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy Saturday defended Finance Minister K.M. Mani following a graft allegation made against him by a businessman who owns hotels with bars here.
“This is a baseless allegation levelled by the businessman. He (businessman) said that he came and told me about this graft. Such a thing has never taken place and I wish to ask him to reveal when, where and with whom did he come and meet me,” Chandy told reporters.
Bar owner Biju Ramesh said on a TV channel that Mani had demanded Rs.five crore for allowing 418 bars in Kerala to remain open. These bars were ordered to be closed from the beginning of this fiscal.
Ramesh, also the Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association president, said that association office bearers had handed over Rs.one crore in two instalments to Mani at his residence in Kottayam.
Ramesh also revealed that he had disclosed this graft deal to Chandy.
“If proved wrong, I am prepared to hand over all my assets to the Kerala government and even prepared to immolate myself,” Ramesh said, participating in the TV debate.
Chandy said each and every Keralite knows Mani very well.
“Let him (Ramesh) say more things because I always meet people openly. Since my name has been dragged into this, let him give more details. I can say with conviction that the allegations levelled against Mani are baseless and there is no need for a probe. I know this is false,” said Chandy.
Mani, 81, who heads the Kerala Congress (Mani), the third biggest ally in the Chandy government, told reporters that he is shocked why baseless allegations are being levelled against him.
“If our party detractors feel that they can silence me and my party through such baseless allegations, then they are wrong. I feel there is some sort of conspiracy behind this and it needs to be probed,” said Mani.
Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan told reporters that a CBI probe will reveal the truth.
“It’s not just Mani who is involved but other ministers are also involved in the graft and hence a CBI probe is needed,” said Achuthanandan.