Kerala Power Minister M.M. Mani on Sunday drew flak for allegedly calling an IAS officer “mad” and made disparaging remarks about women plantation workers. Opposition leaders attacked Mani, with two leaders of the BJP and the Congress demanding his resignation. On Saturday evening, the Minister first took on IAS officer Sreeram Venkitaraman, who was involved in clearing usurped government land of encroachments in Mani’s home district Idukki.
“In Idukki, most religious establishments are located on land that do not have clear title deed. He (Venkitaraman) is a mad man and should be sent to Oolampara (mental hospital in Thiruvananthapuram),” said Mani, who has waded into controversies with his uttrances in the past as well.
Later, addressing a public meeting in Idukki on Saturday night, Mani, a CPI-M leader, said he knew what all went on during the strike by ‘Pembulai Orumae’ (Women’s Collective). “It was a stage-managed protest led by vested interests. I know what all happened. When the strike was on, other activities were taking place in nearby forests,” Mani said.
Angered by Mani’s remarks, women plantation workers’ leader Gomathy said they had launched a protest in Munnar town from Sunday afternoon. “Who is Mani to speak about us? What does he know about us? We will not end our protest till the Minister apologises,” a furious Gomathy said. The 2015 strike by women plantation workers in Munnar had forced the then Oommen Chandy government to hike their wages.
Congress leader Lathika Subhash said Mani had brought shame on Kerala. “Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should ask Mani to step down for his abusive words against plantation workers. I know the sufferings of these women,” said Subhash. On Sunday, former state Congress President V.M. Sudheeran slammed the Minister: “Mani has become a liability for Kerala.”
Communist Party of India leader Prakash Babu had a Biblical take on the whole affair: “What I can say about Mani is to repeat what Jesus said — Forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” State CPI-Marxist Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan refused to comment. Kerala Youth Congress President Dean Kuriakose said Mani should be “put in chains for his utterances”. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan promised to talk to Mani.
Kerala Fisheries Minister and party colleague J. Mercykutty Amma dubbed the remarks “unfortunate” and said Mani should not have spoken thus. CPI-M MP P.K. Sreemathi echoed Amma’s views. State BJP leader Sobha Surendran said the Chief Minister should ask for Mani’s immediate resignation.