It is said that when Pala catches a cold K.M. Mani sneezes.
Fondly called ‘Mani Sir’ by the masses and the political class alike, the lean, heavy-browed politician represented Pala in the Assembly for 52 years on the trot ever since its formation in 1965.
He won all the 13 elections from the constituency and held the Finance portfolio for the longest period and presented as many as 13 budgets of the State. Interestingly, his 13th budget was presented amidst bedlam in the Assembly on March 13, 2015. Thirteen, he once said, was his lucky number.
The foremost in a legion of politicians from central Travancore with the backing of the Church, Mr. Mani carved a niche for himself championing the cause of farmers in the rubber heartland.
Born into a lower middle class family at Marangattupilly, Mr. Mani began his career as a lawyer. Riding on an initial leg-up by political giant P.T. Chacko, his wife Kuttiyamma’s cousin, he rose swiftly through the ranks of the Congress and held the secretary post of the Kottayam District Congress Committee from 1960 to 65.
The 1965 Assembly election marked the watershed in Mr. Mani’s political life. Having failed to secure a nomination from the Congress, he was roped in by the Kerala Congress, formed a year ago and on the growth path, as a candidate to the newly constituted constituency. Mr. Mani trounced his rival candidate V.T.Thomas, a Left independent, by 9,585 votes.
He eventually went on to be the driving force of the Kerala Congress’s ascent in the State’s political landscape and was sworn in Finance Minister for the first time in December 1975.
A tenacious politician, Mr. Mani survived about 20 splits within the Kerala Congress to lord it over the Christian heartland since the formation of the Kerala Congress(M) in 1979. The same year, he also got so close to the Chief Minister’s chair after C.H. Muhammad Koya’s exit but for the last-minute decision by the then Governor Jothi Venkatachalam to dissolve the House.
In his long political career, the KC(M) patriarch faced no major blemishes barring the bar bribery scam in 2015, which forced him out of the Cabinet. A year later, he also quit the Congress-led United Democratic Front but returned after a two-year hiatus.
The portfolios held by Mr.Mani in the Cabinet are Minister for Finance and Law (1975-77), Home Affairs and Ports (April 1977 to December 1977 and September 1978 to July 1979); Finance and Law (January 1980 to October 1981); Finance, Law and Transport (December 1981 to March 1982); Finance and Law (May 1982 to March 1986); Irrigation and Law and Urban Affairs (June 1986 to March 1987); Revenue and Law (June 1991 to May 1996 and May 2001 to May 2006); Finance, Law, and Housing (May 2011 to November 2015).
In 2014-15, he also served as Chairman of the Council of State Finance Ministers for implementing Goods and Services Tax.
He is survived by wife, Kuttiyamma, five daughters -- Sali, Smitha, Annie, Elsamma, and Tessy, and a son. His son, Jose K. Mani, is a Rajya Sabha MP.
The mortal remains of Mr. Mani will be taken to Kottayam from Kochi by 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday. The coffin carrying the body would reach Kottayam by 12 noon and would be kept at the KC(M) State committee office. Later, it will be shifted to the Thirunakkara ground for the public to pay homage and then to Mr. Mani’s native place Marangattupilly by 2 p.m.
From there, the coffin will be shifted to the Pala Municipal Town Hall before returning to the residence by 6 p.m.
The funeral service will begin by 2 p.m on April 11 and the body will be laid to rest at the Pala cathedral in the evening.