Puthuppally's own Chandy: Voters of this Kottayam town never let him down
Chandy made a mark as chief minister. The relief measures during the tsunami were commendable during the fag end of 2004.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Oommen Chandy's first battle in the Puthupally Assembly constituency was on 17 September 1970. He was then the state president of the Youth Congress. Senior Congress leader Professor KM Chandy came down to Puthupally to give the young Oommen Chandy the party symbol.
Prof Chandy quipped to the young leader, "Do not expect to win from Puthupally, if you reach the second place, we will see that as a victory". That was the time Congress saw a split in the party. The closely fought battle saw CPM's E M George being defeated by 27-year-old Oommen Chandy by 7,288 votes. KPCC had given Rs 25, 000 towards election campaigning. Chandy had also received donations worth Rs 2500 from well-wishers in Puthupally. Oommen Chandy took sweet revenge on Prof Chandy by returning the Rs 2500 to the then KPCC president K K Viswanathan. He however turned it down.
During the same period, four other Youth Congress leaders made their debut in the Legislative Assembly - AK Antony, N Ramakrishnan, Kottara Gopalakrishnan and AC Shanmughadas. C Achuthamenon went on to become the Chief Minister yet again with the support of the Congress.
1977 saw Oommen Chandy's second victory. The Assembly election was delayed by two years due to the Emergency. P C Cherian of the Janatha Party was Oommen Chandy's opponent. Chandy increased his victory margin by 15,910 votes. K Karunakaran became the Chief Minister by winning 111 seats, which has been an all-time record. Oommen Chandy became the labour minister at the age of 33 years. But Karunakaran's ministry lasted for just one month as he resigned on April 25.
A K Antony succeeded Karunakaran as the Chief Minister, at the young age of 36 years. Oommen Chandy continued as labour minister where he ensured to provide wages to 15 lakh jobless youths. It was under A K Antony and Oommen Chandy that Chengalchoola colony witnessed a makeover in the form of concrete houses which is now synonymous with Rajaji Nagar Colony.
Another highlight of Oommen Chandy as labour minister was when he made the cut-off age for PSC job applicants 35 years. He also passed the law on head load workers. By then the Congress had a split at the national level. When the Antony Government stepped down on October 27, 1978, P K Vasudevan Nair formed the Government. But the Congress ministers did not continue. Exactly after a year, PKV Government also resigned which saw C H Mohammed Koya forming the Government with Congress supporting from outside. The Fifth Legislative Assembly witnessed four Governments coming to power.
Oommen Chandy's third victory was in 1980 against independent candidate MRG Panicker. Interestingly, Chandy had contested under the LDF then. Despite contesting under the Left banner, Oommen Chandy's victory margin came to 13,659 votes. It was during this period that Congress witnessed a split yet again at the national level where a few joined Devaraj Urs who headed the Congress then. Oommen Chandy found it difficult to get along with the CPM.
After 16 months, national politics witnessed more turmoil, the reflections of which were felt in the state too. At that time the Congress A group took shape which saw Oommen Chandy emerging as the parliamentary party leader of the ‘A’ group. K Karunakaran became the Chief Minister on 28 December 1981 with the support of 71 leaders. Oommen Chandy became the home minister which saw him bringing in comprehensive changes in police uniform. The khaki shorts were replaced with pants and the arrow-shaped police cap saw a new design. With Lonappan Nambadan leaving the Congress and joining the LDF, the Karunakaran ministry resigned after 80 days.
The fourth victory of Oommen Chandy from Puthupally was in 1982 against the independent candidate Thomas Rajan by 15, 983 votes. UDF had won 77 seats. From the 'A' group the names of Oommen Chandy, Vayalar Ravi and KP Noorudeen were proposed as ministers. But Oommen Chandy withdrew and proposed Cyriac John's name instead. It saw Chandy being elected as the Congress Legislative Party leader. The Congress mega meeting in Kochi on 13 December 1982 saw the merger of the two Congress factions. K Karunakaran and Oommen Chandy became the Congress Legislative Party leader and deputy leader respectively. Chandy also became the UDF convener. Karunakaran finally managed to govern the full five-year term as the Chief Minister. In fact, he became the first Congress Chief Minister to complete a full term. Vayalar Ravi stepped down as home minister following disagreements with K Karunakaran. In due course following disagreements with Karunakaran, Chandy stepped down as UDF convener.
The fifth win of Oommen Chandy was in 1987 against CPM's V N Vasavan by 9, 164 votes. The LDF came to power under E K Nayanar.
In 1991, Oommen Chandy's sixth victory was against CPM's V N Vasavan by 13, 811 votes. On 24 June 1991, K Karunakaran became the fourth time Chief Minister and Oommen Chandy became the finance minister. The state’s financial situation was looking bleak and the Government was fully dependent on overdrafts for smooth functioning. Within three years, Chandy increased the state revenues from a minus growth. He also gave five DA to employees in three years, spending about Rs 511 crore. The issue of the overdraft was addressed during that time.
In June 1992, state politics witnessed more dramatic developments after K Karunakaran met with a car accident. Vayalar Ravi emerged as KPCC president by defeating AK Antony. On June 16, 1994, Oommen Chandy stepped down as finance minister in protest against Dr M A Kuttappan being denied a Rajya Sabha seat.
Due to forest minister P Vishwanathan's resignation and the Koothuparamba firing incident, K Karunakaran stepped down on 16 March 1995. AK Antony became the Chief Minister on 22 March 1995. VM Sudheeran became the minister instead of K P Vishwanathan and Oommen Chandy did not join the cabinet.
The seventh victory by Oommen Chandy from Puthupally was in 1996 against CPM's Reji Zacharia by 10,155 votes. E K Nayanar became the Chief Minister and A K Antony became the Opposition Leader.
In 2001, Oommen Chandy emerged victorious for the eighth time from Puthuppally. This time he had a surprising opponent in the form of Cheriyan Philip who was then a CPM fellow traveller. He was defeated by 12, 575 votes. AK Antony became Chief Minister with 99 seats. Oommen Chandy became the UDF convener. In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the UDF tasted bitter defeat in all the seats except Ponnani. Taking responsibility for the poll debacle, A K Antony resigned. Oommen Chandy became the 19th Chief Minister of the State on 31 August 2004.
Chandy made a mark as chief minister. The relief measures during the tsunami were commendable during the fag end of 2004. The Karunakaran faction saw a split which saw DIC(K) being formed. Even though the LDF and DIC(K) fought the local body election together and won many seats, CPM severed its ties with the DIC(K) during the Assembly elections. Ramesh Chennithala emerged as the KPCC president.
By then the health minister Ramachandran Master resigned. Oommen Chandy suffered an injury after he fell down on the ice during his Davos trip to attend the World Economic Forum meeting. The LDF came up with a no-confidence motion against the UDF Government in the Legislative Assembly which saw discussions taking place for 25 hours. The ruling front defeated the no-confidence motion by countering it with allegations over SNC Lavalin.
Chandy’s ninth victory was in 2006 against CPM's Sindhu Joy by 19, 863 votes. LDF emerged victorious in the Assembly election by garnering 98 seats. VS Achuthanandan became the CM and Oommen Chandy the Opposition Leader.
In 2011, Oommen Chandy defeated CPM's Suja Susan George by a huge margin of 33,255 votes. He became Chief Minister for the second time, with the UDF getting 72 seats and LDF 68 seats. Following the demise of Kerala Congress (Jacob) chairman TM Jacob, his son Anoop Jacob joined the cabinet. Chandy was successful in bringing CPM MLA R Selvaraj to the UDF fold which saw the total strength of the UDF jumping to 73 seats.
The 11th victory of Oommen Chandy saw him winning against CPM's ‘baby’ candidate, Jaick C Thomas by 27, 092 votes. The election which saw the solar and bar scams getting centre stage, UDF got only 47 seats and the LDF romped home with 91 seats. Taking responsibility of the poll debacle, Oommen Chandy stepped down from his official responsibilities. The Congress high command appointed Chandy as AICC general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh and later included in the Congress Working Committee.
In his last Assembly election in 2021, Oommen Chandy’s victory margin came down to 9, 044 votes against Jaick C Thomas. This time, the Orthodox church did not support him like in the previous years. This time health issues started cropping up. Still, he was successful in keeping his voters with him. With 12 consecutive victories, Chandy was the longest-serving MLA in the Kerala legislative assembly.