Idukki (Ker): In an embarrassment to CPI(M) in Kerala, senior leader M M Mani was today arrested and remanded to judicial custody for refusing to turn up for a polygraph test in connection with a political murder case, re-opened in the wake of a controversial speech made by him.
Mani, who had triggered controversy by stating that his party had in the past eliminated some foes in Idukki district, was picked up from his house at Kunhithanni near here in the wee hours and was remanded to judicial custody by the Judicial Magistrate at Nedumkandan after medical examination at the police station.
The CPI(M) reacted to the arrest by calling for protests, including a dawn-to-dusk hartal tomorrow in the high range Idukki district, where Mani led the party as district secretary for over two decades.
State Home Minister Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan, however, said there nothing abnormal about the arrest as it was done following due procedures.
Police registered a criminal case against Mani and two other party activists by re-opening the murder of an INTUC activist in Idukki district 30 years ago in the light of Mani`s speech.
The special investigation team probing the case against Mani had last week served a notice to him, seeking to know whether he was willing to appear for the polygraph test by today.
Mani declined to comply with the police demand, arguing that he was a chronic asthma patient and that the test was not a legally maintainable procedure in criminal investigations.
While addressing a public meeting at Manakkad near Thodupuzha in the district a few months ago, Mani said his party in the 1980s drew up a list of political rivals to be eliminated and executed that.
Ironically, Mani`s `revelation` came at a time when the party was on the defensive following the brutal murder of CPI-M rebel leader T P Chandrasekharan at Onjiyam in Vatakara. Several local CPI(M) activists were arrested and made accused in the Chandrasekharan murder case.
But the central and state leadership of the party had repeatedly asserted that physical elimination of rivals has never been its policy.
His speech had been roundly condemned by various political parties and forced the CPI(M) to remove him from the powerful post of district secretary and suspend him from the state committee.
Meanwhile, CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said Mani`s arrest and the procedures followed by police amounted to a challenge to the rule of law.
It appeared to be a move to deflect public attention from the "political and administrative crisis" faced by the ruling Congress-led UDF, Vijayan said in a statement.
The arrest came when a petition filed by Mani was pending before the Supreme Court, he said.
In sharp contrast, the UDF Government had refrained from taking any action against those Congress and IUML leaders who were facing allegations of involvement in political murders, he added.