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K M Mani presents Budget amidst violent Oppn protests in Kerala Assembly

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Kerala Assembly today witnessed unprecedented and ugly scenes as opposition members went on a rampage destroying Speaker’s podium and indulged in scuffle with the watch-and-ward staff even as Finance Minister K M Mani, facing charges in bar bribery scam, managed to present the state budget.
The agitation against Mani also turned violent outside the House with police using batons and teargas shells to chase away angry LDF and Yuva Morcha activists. The irate crowd also set fire to a police jeep in the city.
Braving the LDF opposition onslaught, Mani read some portions of the budget as ruling UDF members and watch-and-ward staff formed a strong cordon around him to prevent the opposition to physically obstruct the minister from presenting the budget.
Opposition members were adamant in their stand that the “tainted” minister should not present the budget.
Trouble started even before the beginning of the session as LDF members blocked all entrance to the House including that of the Speaker’s dais.
As the time approached for the budget presentation, some of the senior LDF members sat on the podium and raised slogans “inquilab zindabad” and scuffle started when watch-and-ward staff tried to evict them from the podium.
Situation turned worse as a free-for-all ensued between LDF members and security personnel at the podium as leaders including K Kunjahmed, E P Jayarajan, James Mathew, T V Rajesh and V Sivankutty threw the speaker’s chair and damaged loud speakers, computers and lights.
In a fit of rage, some members even climbed the table in front of the podium and challenged the ruling front who were also on their feet to help Mani to present the budget.
Amidst this din, Mani made a dramatic entry into the House through a side door when LDF members were jostling with security at the speaker’s podium entrance.
The LDF’s strategy was to prevent speaker N Sakthan to enter the House as a move to thwart the budget presentation.
As Mani entered the House, attention of LDF members turned to him and many of them trooped towards him. But their attempt was foiled by a strong presence of security personnel inside the House.
As Mani started reading out the budget, some of the women MLAs including Bijumol (CPI) and K Lathika (CPI-M) even climbed on the table and tried to break the cordon of security guards.
With Mani formally completing the budget by reading out some portions of it in 10 minutes, jubilant UDF members raised slogans in support of the Finance Minister and some of them were even seen distributing sweets.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet members arrived in the Assembly well before the budget presentation, scheduled at 9 AM.
Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan and Deputy Leader of the opposition Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, both CPI(M), were seen watching the developments.
In the commotion, some of the LDF members including senior CPI(M) leader and former minister Thomas Isaac fell down on the dais. The situation remained tense for some more time with the LDF members sitting in the well of the House and raising protest in the presence of the large number of security staff.
LDF MLAs including K Lathika, C Divakaran, V Sivankutty, T V Rajesh, K Saleekha and Geetha Gopi were taken out of the House in stretchers and wheel-chairs and admitted to hospital after they complained of uneasiness.
LDF and Yuva Morcha, youth wing of BJP, were on war path demanding resignation of Mani and insisted that the Minister, whose name figured in the vigilance FIR in the bar bribery scam, should not be allowed to present the budget.
Meanwhile, Achuthanandan told reporters outside the House that such a situation had never arisen in the Assembly before and at least 20 MLAs were allegedly beaten by security staff.
Tension mounted in the state capital after LDF warned the Congress-headed UDF government that they would go to any length to prevent Mani from presenting the budget even as Chandy made it clear that Mani himself would be presenting the budget as he had the constitutional right for the same.
Putting pressure on the ruling Front, LDF MLAs stayed in the Assembly complex last night as part of their plans to check Mani inside the House while he arrived to present the budget in the morning.
Apparently fearing the blockage and siege, Mani and some of his cabinet colleagues also stayed back inside the Assembly complex last night.
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.
The allegations were levelled by Kerala state Bar Hotel Owner’s Association Working President Biju Ramesh.

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