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Before the formation of the LDF and the UDF, Kerala saw five Chief Ministers under the United Front.

Black and white photo of ministers in 1969, nine men stand in two rows, with one of them wearing a suit and the others mundu and shirtC Achutha Menon ministry of 1969 / Wiki Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5
news Kerala Chronicles Saturday, April 03, 2021 - 18:25

It seems like an impossible story, when you listen to the high-pitched campaigns of the Left and the United Democratic Fronts against each other in poll-bound Kerala. But once upon a time, not so long ago, one faction of the Communist Party of India, after its grand split of 1964, had joined together with the Indian National Congress, to win an election together in Kerala. They were then called the United Front. They ruled for nearly a decade between 1970 and 1979 before going their separate ways to form the opposing fronts as we know today – the Communist-led LDF and the Congress-led UDF.

Three years after the Communist Party split into the CPI and the CPI(Marxist) or CPI(M), an election was held in Kerala, during which both the parties fought together in a seven party alliance. They won against the Congress and EMS Namboothiripad of the CPI(M) became the Chief Minister. But in two years, the ministry fell and the differences between the two Communist parties put them in rival fronts. Briedly, a government led by CPI’s Achutha Menon ruled Kerala for a few months. Achutha Menon was not a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in 1969 and won a bye-election from Kottarakkara within a few months. 

For the next Assembly election — held in 1970, the United Front got formed with five recognised political parties - the Congress, the CPI, the RSP (Revolutionary Socialist Party), the Muslim League and the PSP (Praja Socialist Party). They won the election and C Achutha Menon became the Chief Minister. Members of the Congress and the Kerala Congress were allied to the ruling front but they joined the ministry only in later years.

This was also an election when female voters outnumbered the males.

Achutha Menon’s government became the first in Kerala to complete its constitutional term. But in 1975, the Emergency was declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the United Front in Kerala extended its term by two more years.

In between those years, a new delimitation led to the formation of the 140 Assembly constituencies we know today. In 1977, when another Assembly election took place, the United Front had a comfortable win. They got 111 of the 140 seats. This time, Congress’s K Karunakaran became the Chief Minister but his term lasted only a month. Karunakaran had to resign following the furore over the Rajan case.

Read: Kerala Chronicles: How one missing student brought down a Congress govt in just a month

The next two years had been tumultuous for the state with three more Chief Ministers of the United Front ruling Kerala in that period. Karunakaran was succeeded by AK Antony who was not an MLA at the time and had to get elected to the Assembly in six months. With only four days left for this deadline, he won from the Kazhakuttam constituency in October 1977. However, Antony, too, resigned, in protest over Indira Gandhi’s candidature for the Chikkamagalur bye-election.

Read: Kerala Chronicles: When Gandhi-loyalist AK Antony turned into an implacable Indira foe in the 1970s

After Antony, PK Vasudevan Nair of the CPI became CM for a year, and after him, it was CH Mohammed Koya of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).

By the end of the decade, the new fronts of the LDF and the UDF were formed. The CPI finally parted ways from the United Front and joined with the CPI(M) to form the LDF. The UDF, too, got formed the same time, with the Congress, the IUML and other parties. Never again did a Communist party ally with the Congress in Kerala.

Watch: How CPI and Congress ruled as allies in Kerala for a decade  

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