Shifting of loyalties, crossing over, internal squabbles and rebellions upsetting the political ambitions of bigwigs and emergence of dark horses have been part of electoral politics in the Ernakulam Parliamentary constituency for ages.
Political turbulence was the name of the game in the constituency during late 80s and 90s. High political dramas marked the electioneering in the constituency since 1980. That time, Congress singlehandedly took on a Left-Congress (Antony) combine and emerged victorious. The party fielded its legislator Xavier Arakkal to take on Henry Austin, who was a Central Minister during the late 70s. Mr. Arakkal won the seat for his party.
In 1984, Congress fielded K.V. Thomas, a hardcore Karunakaran loyalist, who was to become the torchbearer of the constituency for the next three decades, in Ernakulam in its party symbol to fight A.A. Kochunni Master of Congress (S), who had wide contacts and rapport in the constituency. Mr. Thomas, who was a Chemistry lecturer in a private college, didn’t fail his political mentor and senior Congress leader K. Karunakaran, who had a deep understanding of the political chemistry of the constituency, and emerged victorious. The sympathy wave that swept the country following the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi too added to the margin of the Congress in the election.
Mr. Thomas went on to post two straight victories in the elections held in 1989 and 1991, defeating Left-backed independent candidate Subramanian Potty, a former judge of the High Court of Kerala and the CPI (M) stalwart V. Viswanatha Menon respectively.
Political fortunes of Prof. Thomas were upset by his one-time party colleague Xavier Arakkal, who contested the election in 1996 as a Left-backed independent candidate. Though luck favoured Mr. Arakkal in the election, his sudden demise forced another election on the constituency. This time, the choice of the Congress was again a college lecturer and a leader of the Latin Catholic community.
After resigning his membership in the Public Service Commission, Antony Issac fielded himself as the Congress candidate in the bypoll held in 1997. The election also witnessed a new star raise, Sebastian Paul, in the LDF camp, which had found the constituency unconquerable for decades. Mr. Paul rewrote the electoral history of Ernakulam by winning the seat for LDF.
Shortly, the country was forced into another General Elections and in 1998, Mr. Paul was pitted against George Eden, the then sitting MLA of the Congress in the Ernakulam Assembly constituency. Riding on the popularity wave and general acceptance of Eden, the Congress romped home with an impressive margin.
Eden continued his winning streak in the next election held in 1999 too and defeated Mani Vithayathil, whom the Left Front fielded after making him resign from his job in the banking sector. The demise of Eden, while serving as an MP, mandated another election in the constituency in 2003.
The inner party bickering in the Congress reached its crescendo during the bypoll when M.O. John, the Aluva municipal chairman and a staunch Antony loyalist, was fielded as the Congress candidate against the wishes of the ‘I’ faction in the party. The electioneering also witnessed the canny Congress leader Karunakaran exhorting his supporters to watch “television,” the election symbol of the LDF candidate Mr. Paul.
The cross voting from the Congress combined with the effective fieldwork of the LDF made another victory possible for Mr. Paul from the constituency. Many political observers rechristened Mr. Paul as “Sebastian By Poll” considering his series of victories in the byelections.
Next year, in 2004, Mr. Paul defeated Edward Edezhath, a political novice, who too was serving as a college lecturer, whom the Congress had identified as its candidate.
Last election, the Congress went back to Prof. Thomas, who wrest the constituency from the LDF.