K.M. Mani
K.M. Mani

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala was hit by a series of scams in 2015, one of which led to the ignominious exit of Finance Minister K M Mani, and among other headlines was one over the exclusion of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy from a function of Prime Minister Narendra Modi which also had its echo in Parliament.

Chandy, who was invited to attend the statue unveiling function of late chief minister R Sankar at Kollam, was later politely asked by the organisers — Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), an organisation of the backward Hindu Ezhva community, to stay away from the function, triggering a huge controversy.

Kerala was also be the venue of the Combined Commanders conference of the three services held on board India’s largest aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya in Kochi. Inaugurated by Modi, this was the first time that the conference was held outside the national capital.

Modi also visited the Sivagiri mutt and paid respects to social reformer and spiritual leader Sree Narayana guru by planting a sampling.

The bar scam, in which Mani was allegedly involved, dominated the political scenario in Kerala throughout the year.

Mani, against whom vigilance sleuths had registered an FIR in the bar scam, was forced to resign a day after Kerala High court made some stinging observations.

Though the 82-year-old strongman from Pala and supremo of Kerala Congress (M) tried to hold on, luck seemed to have given away after Chandy and other UDF partners put pressure on him to quit. A reluctant Mani finally had to give in and submit his resignation.

Mani, who has mass base, especially in central Travancore area dominated by Christan community, represented the Pala constituency for 50 years continuously.

His resignation came as a big blow to the Chandy government as he is the second minister who was forced to quit from the Cabinet. Earlier, K B Ganesh Kumar of Kerala Congress (B) had resigned after his estranged wife complained of domestic violence. Ganeshkumar and his party led by his father R Balakrishna Pillai, later left the UDF.

For Chandy, more trouble seems to be brewing in the bar scam, with a vigilance court now ordering a quick verification against another minister, K Babu, handling Excise and Ports.

The development came as an embarrassment for Chandy as Babu is a Congress minister and close confidant of his.

The CPI(M)-led LDF opposition has already begun demanding both in the assembly and outside that Babu should quit and face probe.

A prominent bar hotelier, Biju Ramesh had made stunning revelations during a television debate that the Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association had paid Rs one crore bribe to Mani and Rs 10 crore to Babu for favourable decisions.

The year also saw unprecedented violence in the state assembly with ruling and Opposition MLAs literally coming to blows and vandalising speaker’s dais, breaking computers and hurling chairs at each other. It was a free for all on March 13 in the house when the Opposition tried their best to prevent Mani from presenting the state budget.

The solar scam continued to haunt the UDF government with the main accused, Biju Radhakrishnan targeting Chandy claiming that he had video evidence of him and five other ministers in ‘wrongful situations’. A search for the purported video at Coimbatore turned out to be a wild goose chase.

While the UDF received a drubbing in the crucial civic polls, which saw the LDF getting an upper hand in the corporation, municipalities and gram panchayats, the UDF had a face saviour by winning the Aruvikkara bypoll in June.

The bypoll was necessitated by the death of former Speaker and Congress leader G Karthikeyan. UDF put up his son, K S Sabarinath, as its candidate and he won the seat, represented by his father for 25 years, in his debut election handsomely.

BJP, which is yet to open its account in Assembly and Parliament from the southern state, managed to put up a good performance in the civic polls than earlier attempts.

The party, which is trying to break the bi-polar politics of UDF and LDF in Kerala, seems to have found an ally in SNDP.

Ahead of the next assembly polls, SNDP led by its powerful General Secretary Vellapally Natesan announced the formation of a new political party Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, which is likely to have tie-up with the saffron party.

The UDF which is hoping to overcome the anti-incumbency factor by riding to power on its development agenda got a major boost with the foundation stone being laid for the state’s dream project of Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport project estimated to cost Rs 7525 crore.

Port project was first conceived by the government of late K Karunakaran 25 years ago. Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari also announced cabotage waiver for the proposed port.

Kerala’s fourth international airport is getting ready in the northern district of Kannur with construction work of the runway nearing completion and trial flight likely to land early next month.

On other political front, politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan took over as state secretary of the CPI(M) after senior leader and Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan, who was at the helm of the party for nearly three decades, stepped down.

Even though CPI(M) has not yet announced who will be leading the Left battle during the elections scheduled early next year, Vijayan is widely tipped to head the front.

However, 92-year-old Marxist veteran V S Achutanandan, who is still very popular among the masses, has given enough hints that he was willing to throw in the hat in the electoral arena “if the people and party wishes”.

Achutanandan, who had walked out of the party state conference at Alapuzha held in February expressing dissatisfaction over the functioning of the leadership of Vijayan, had caused deep embarrassment to the party.

A resolution had also been passed terming Achutanandan’s action as “anti-party”.

Despite his action, Achutadanandan was the main crowd puller and much sought after during the civic polls, in which LDF gained over the ruling front.

The CPI also saw a change of guard with Kanam Rajendran taking over as state secretary from Panniyan Ravindran.

In an unprecedented violent incident in Kozhikode airport, a group of CISF personnel and fire and rescue personnel of the AAI, clashed leading to the death of a CISF jawan.

Fall in rubber prices saw the state farmers reeling under financial crisis with price touching below Rs 100 per kg. Even though government announced various schemes to support growers, these did not have the desired result.

The year also saw apolitical agitation by a group of women workers of tea plantations of Kanan Devan hills at Munnar. With over 10,000 women blocking the roads in the famous hill resort, government was forced to act by calling them for talks.

Subsequently, the entire plantation workers went on a indefinite agitation following which the plantation management and workers reached an understanding on wages on government’s intervention.

A boat tragedy in Kochi claimed 11 lives on August 26 when a passenger boat, with 35 people while on its way from Vypin to Fort Kochi was hit by a speeding fishing craft at the harbour mouth. An Iranian dhow was also seized near the Alapuzha coast in the state.

The year also saw Kerala hosting the much-delayed and postponed National Games, which was marred by controversies.

On the entertainment front, while most of the films of big stars bombed, two love stories “Premam” and “Ennum Ninte Moideen” turned out to be huge success commercially.

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