The Kerala Assembly was disrupted and adjourned for the second consecutive day today over Power Minister M M Mani’s alleged derogatory remarks against women. Demanding his resignation, opposition legislators trooped into the well of the House and raised slogans, saying that continuation of Mani was a “disgrace” to the state. However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan maintained that the power minister had not insulted women as alleged by the opposition. “It is clear if one listens to the full text of the 17 minute speech made by Mani during a function in Kunchithanni in Idukki the other day that triggered the row,” he said.
Vijayan was replying to a notice seeking adjournment motion on the alleged police action against the four-day-long agitation by activists of ‘Pembila Orumai’, a women’s group of plantation workers, in Munnar. The women are on an agitational path in the hill station, demanding an apology and resignation of Mani for his alleged insulting remarks.
The Chief Minister said the stir was a “politically motivated” one and lacked people’s support. “The leaders of Pembila Orumai have clearly stated that the ongoing agitation has no connection with the outfit.It is conducted by somebody to gain political mileage using the outfit’s name,” he charged.
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He also denied the opposition charge that the government was trying to suppress the stir using power and police.
Vijayan also made it clear that the government would go ahead with the anti-encroachment drive in Munnar and would distribute title deeds to settlers by May. Terming the CPI(M)-led LDF government as “anti-women”, Congress’s V D Satheesan, who sought notice for the motion, said false cases were registered against the agitating women. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the government’s stand supporting Mani instead of warning him could not be accepted.
Referring to the CM’s statement that only four women were taking part in the stir against the minister, Chennithala said a Communist leader should evaluate an agitation not on the basis of the number of participants, but on its merit.
Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan rejected the notice for the adjournment motion and took up other scheduled businesses of the day, following which the opposition legislators moved to the well of the house raising slogans and holding banner. As the protests continued, the Speaker cut short further proceedings and adjourned the House for the day. Protests had erupted in various parts of Kerala, demanding Mani’s resignation over his remarks against ‘Pembila Orumai’ activists and IAS officers involved in the eviction drive from encroached lands in Munnar in Idukki district.