Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Finance Minister K.M. Mani, who is facing allegations of corruption, Tuesday said he will be presenting his 13th budget and the number 13 was lucky for him.
Mani was interacting with the media for the first time Tuesday after whistle-blower bar owner Biju Ramesh alleged that the minister was given Rs.1 crore in October last year as the first instalment of the Rs.5-crore bribe he demanded to help reopen closed bars in the state.
“I have a record (of presenting the budget)… 12 times and this is the only such record in the country. My life is an open book. People know me very well for the past 50 years. I will be presenting my 13th budget. Some people told me about the unlucky number 13, but for me 13 is lucky,” said Mani, who will turn 82 Friday.
“The allegation is meant to malign me and the audio tape (of discussions between the bar owner and some politicians) that came out in the media is a fabricated one,” he said.
“I know this is a political conspiracy against me and I know who the perpetrators are. The Congress-led UDF is giving me all support. I am not a coward to run away,” the minister added.
“The law is very clear that the onus is on the person who has levelled the allegation to come out with the evidence,” Mani said.
Mani said though he has sent a legal notice to Ramesh, he was waiting to go ahead with further legal action at the appropriate time.
He said it has been nearly three months since the “baseless” allegation was made.
“I am waiting for him to come out with more allegations. I can’t be fighting numerous cases against one person. At the appropriate time, I will go forward legally,” he said.
Mani also hit out at the Left opposition, saying what was happening against him was “sheer blackmail”.
“The opposition is promoting this and they will have to pay a heavy price. They say they will not allow me to present my budget,” he said.
Mani’s comment came before the United Democratic Front meets Wednesday to discuss the actions of alliance leader R. Balakrishna Pillai, who was heard on the audio tape telling Ramesh to approach the CBI and not to leave Mani.
Mani did not answer questions on whether he will ask for the removal of Pillai’s party Kerala Congress-B from the UDF and also chose to ignore statements made by his party vice chairman P.C. George.