Palai (Kerala): If there's one man that Kerala politicians - existing and aspiring - would like to emulate, it is opposition legislator K.M. Mani, who has been contesting assembly polls since 1965 and is yet to taste defeat. Mani is hoping to register his 12th successive win from the same old constituency, Palai, in Kottayam district.
Mani is the leader of the Kerala Congress-Mani, which is third largest ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front. His party is contesting 15 seats in the April 13 assembly polls and Mani himself is confident of winning comfortably.
"My campaign has begun and I have allotted just four days of campaigning to my own constituency. I have been told by my electorate that I can spend more time in other constituencies. I have absolute faith in my voters who have been part and parcel of my life for close to half a century," said Mani.
Palai has seen just Mani as its legislator since the time it came into being as a constituency in 1965. Even though he won in 1965, the assembly was never constituted that year as no party could get a majority to form the government. So Mani's career as a legislator actually began when he won in 1967, from Palai, of course.
After that it has been records galore for the now 78-year-old veteran who has also been in a minister's chair for the longest time, with his different terms adding up to 20 years. He is also the only finance minister in the state who has presented a record eight budgets, not to mention the only legislator to represent the same constituency for so many years.
Political observers say what can bring cheer to his opponent, Mani C. Kappen of the Nationalist Congress Party, who had taken him on in the 2006 polls as well, is the hope of reducing Mani's victory margin. In the 2006 polls, Mani defeated Kappen by a margin of 7,759 votes.
Mani's biggest margin of victory was in the 1996 polls which he won with 23,790 votes and his least was in 1970 when he won by just 364 votes. Mani's only son Jose K. Mani is the Lok Sabha member from Kottayam.
Kerala goes to the polls on April 13 to elect 140 new legislators.