The Yamini Thankachi-K. B. Ganesh Kumar series of incidents leading to the latter’s resignation from the State Cabinet on Monday find political and historical parallel in an incident nearly half-a-century ago when then Home Minister P. T. Chacko was forced to resign after he was discovered on a vacation, travelling to Peechi, with a woman party worker.
Mr. Chacko’s resignation, in early 1964, paved the way for the formation of Kerala Congress because a group of Congressmen, backed by the Catholic Church, felt that Mr. Chacko was the victim of a political witch-hunt within the then ruling party.
Mr. Ganesh Kumar’s resignation is the case of time coming a full circle as his father R. Balakrishna Pillai was among the Congress MLAs who walked out of the Assembly, supporting Mr. Chacko, and then went on to form the Kerala Congress.
Since then Kerala has had more than its share of the heady mix of politics and sex. Industries minister P. K. Kunhalikutty was named in the 1997 ice-cream parlour case involving a sex racket and a minor girl; former minister for forests A. Neelalohithadasan Nadar resigned in February 2000 after being accused of trying to molest a senior bureaucrat and Minister for Irrigation and Water Resources P. . Joseph quit the Cabinet in November 2006 after allegations that he tried to molest a fellow passenger on a flight to Chennai.
But the incident involving Mr. Chacko changed the course of Kerala politics and the echoes of what looks like a political conspiracy continue to resound down these years. A former bureaucrat called that incident a “honey trap” considering that Mr. Chacko was the powerful leader of a strong faction within the ruling party. It appears that he panicked, the former bureaucrat said, pointing out that there was only circumstantial evidence against Mr. Chacko.
The controversy emerged out of nowhere but created such a political ruckus that senior journalists still remember how some of the media houses followed the incident and subsequent developments closely despite the prevailing constraints in communications and transport.
One of them recalled that Mr. Chacko was travelling to Peechi after an Assembly session without his driver. The story was that Mr. Chacko sent the driver away for a break. He was driving the car himself in protocol violation when it was involved in an accident with a bullock cart near Thrissur. The lady in the car was reportedly spirited away but later she came forward to identify herself, giving rise to speculations.
The newspapers followed the trail of the incident and even went to report from the spot where the accident occurred. One of the newspapers compared the incident with the Profumo affair, which landed the Harold Macmillan-led Conservative government in serious trouble in 1963. One of the headlines in a Malayalam daily those days raised a question to the effect: ‘Who is Kerala’s Christine Keeler’, drawing parallels with British Secretary of State for War (1961) John Profumo and the glamorous model Keeler.