History repeats itself as Congress bites the dust in Thrissur

Karunakaran's daughter Padmaja Venugopal lost by 6987 votes.
History repeats itself as Congress bites the dust in Thrissur
History repeats itself as Congress bites the dust in Thrissur
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As election counting came to a close, history repeated itself in Thrissur constituency with the defeat of Congress candidate Padmaja Venugopal, the daughter of former Chief Minister K Karunakaran.

Curiously, the constituency which has always been considered as a stronghold of the Congress party, has never given much leeway to Karunakaran or his scions. In 1957 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections and 1996 Parliamentary elections, K Karunakaran had lost from Thrissur constituency. In the 1998 mid-term polls to Parliament following the fall of the National Front government, it was the turn of his son K Muralidharan to lose from Thrissur. Therambil Ramakrishnan, who had first won from the constituency in 1982 under the banner of National Democratic Party (NDP), maintained an iron grip by winning continuously from 1991 till 2011. While for Padmaja, this was her second electoral foray, following her 2004 electoral defeat from Mukundapuram constituency.  

In 1957, Karunakaran had lost by less than a 1000 votes against trade unionist Dr AR Menon. The latter had then famously remarked that he could not consider the win as a victory. Karunakaran later went on to win continuously from Mala constituency (Kodungallur), becoming elevated to the post of a stalwart and kingmaker in Congress politics.

Shortly after the ISRO spy case debacle of 1994, when Chief Minister Karunakaran came under fire from both the opposition and a section of his party for protecting his close aide Raman Srivastava IPS, he had resigned and AK Antony ascended the throne. In the 1996 parliamentary election, Karunakaran unexpectedly lost to VV Raghavan from Thrissur constituency. Stumped political observers had then analysed the possibility of cross-voting which could have led to his defeat. “Karunakaran should have won that election,” says political analyst NM Pearson.

In the 1998 mid-term polls, K Muralidharan lost from Thrissur, again to VV Raghavan. “Though the candidate selection remained a mystery till January 22, 1998, Karunakaran succeeded in securing safe constituencies for himself and his son at Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur respectively. Karunakaran saw to it that PC Chacko, who had fallen out with him, was shifted to Mukundapuram from Idukki Lok Sabha seat. Antony remained silent through all this. These incidents irked the Christian community, which resulted in the defeat of Muralidharan from Thrissur,” notes G Radhakarishna Kurup in his book ‘Politics of Congress factionalism in Kerala since 1982’.

As history showed us later, Karunakaran’s power over the Nehru family and the Congress High Command had waned in the final decade of his life. A spectacular mistake was the formation of Democratic Indira Congress (Karunakaran), then named National Congress(Indira) in May 2005, and his return to the parent party later. It was only in 2011, one year after the death of Karunakaran, that Muralidharan was allowed membership and an assembly ticket from Vattiyurkkavu constituency.

“Such a strong trend towards the left is visible in the entire Thrissur district. There has been a strong consolidation of minority votes towards the left in these polls. The votes of Nair Service Society (NSS) have also been a very critical factor for such a victory for the left party. Fielding a candidate like VS Sunilkumar and the general trend in the elections turned out to be favourable for the left,” observes NM Pearson.

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