Speaking to reporters here, CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said they are the least surprised with this allegation as the Chandy government is known for such things.

"He do not disbelieve the allegations levelled by Biju Ramesh, as such news was in the air for long. Moreover Ramesh is a known businessman. But the real winner in this episode is Chandy as Mani's party was for some time was trying to make Mani the chief minister," said Vijayan.

Bar owner Ramesh said on a TV channel that Mani had demanded Rs.5 crore for allowing 418 bars in Kerala to remain open.

These bars were ordered to be closed from the beginning of this fiscal.

Ramesh, also the Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association working president, said that association office bearers had handed over Rs. one crore in two instalments to Mani at his residence in Kottayam.

In the 140 member Kerala assembly the Chandy government has the support of 75 legislators including the nine legislators of Kerala Congress ( Mani).

Speculations have been in the air for long that 81-year-old Mani who has been a legislator since 1967 has been nursing ambitions of becoming the chief minister.

The Left opposition has been wooing Mani to rock the UDF boat and join them with an unwritten understanding that he will be made the Chief Minister with the CPI-M extending outside support.

"Oh...we did not know that we were backing Mani. If you let us know more about it, we will find out," shot back Vijayan when asked with the graft allegation surfacing, whether they will still support Mani, if he abandons the Congress-led United Democratic Front.

Vijayan unlike his arch rival VS Achuthanandan appeared soft on Mani.

While Vijayan called for a probe, Achuthanandan demanded a CBI enquiry into the graft allegation and has already written to the State Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau to register case against Mani and begin a probe.

With the entire UDF leadership strongly defending Mani and dismissing the graft as a baseless allegation, he has called for an urgent meeting of his party leadership later in the day.

Government chief whip and vice chairman of Mani's party P.C. George said that Chandy came out in defence of Mani after 13 hours, when it should have happened immediately when the allegation surfaced.

Latest News from State News Desk