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Kerala UDF in trouble, Mani wants George's exit

Kerala UDF in trouble, Mani wants George's exit
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala's ruling UDF faced a new crisis on Friday as Finance Minister K.M. Mani asked his party colleague P.C. George to quit as the government's Chief Whip.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told the media that Mani has in a letter to him sought George's removal as the chief whip and also barring him from attending the liaison committee meetings of the United Democratic Front.

"We have had a few rounds of discussions but no decision has been taken yet. I have to speak with other allies also. A decision will be taken soon," Chandy said.

The Kerala Congress-Mani is the third biggest ally of the UDF and has nine legislators.

On Thursday, barring George, all others met at Mani's residence and took the decision regarding George. It was conveyed in a letter to Chandy by Mani and his cabinet and party colleague P.J. Joseph.

On Friday, Chandy first spoke with George and then with Mani.

George argued that the meeting which took place at Mani's residence was null and void as he was not invited "and there was no unanimity in ousting me".

"Moreover, I am not going to be cowed down by threats and veiled attacks. Now the ball is in the court of the chief minister. So, I continue to be the chief whip and a member of Kerala Congress (Mani)," said the 64-year-old George, a six-time legislator from Poonjar in Kottayam district.

In 2003, after breaking away from another faction of the Kerala Congress, George formed his own Kerala Congress-Secular. He contested the 2006 elections as an ally of the Left Democratic Front.

Mid-way, he shifted to the UDF and in 2010 merged his party with the Kerala Congress-Mani.

But since Mani was accused of taking bribes to let liquor bars open in Kerala, George has been giving him sleepless nights. He has asked Mani to quit as a minister.

Chandy, whose government since 2011 is hanging on a slender majority in the 140-member Kerala assembly, has already lost one member, K.B. Ganesh Kumar, to the opposition.

Knowing that a disgruntled George outside the UDF will create havoc, the chief minister is engaged in a tough balancing act vis-a-vis Mani and George.

Source: IANS

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