A veteran watches poll scene with content

Annamma Jacob  

Nearly four decades after walking away from an active public life leaving her stamp, among other things, as the first-ever woman panchayat president in the State, Annamma Jacob, now 84, regrets nothing.

Watching the hustle and bustle of the election campaign nonchalantly from her son’s home at Oonnukal, along the eastern border of the district, Ms. Jacob bemoans the surfeit of politics in governance.

“Conscience is missing from public life and it is all politics, no matter who wins,” observed the octogenarian.

Having served as the member of Kavalangad panchayat for 21 years, 11 of it as the president, long before the reservation for women in local bodies kicked in, Ms. Jacob can afford to mount that moral high horse.

Youngest member

She was first nominated as a member of Kavalangad panchayat, the biggest in the district area-wise, in 1963 and was shortly elected vice-president when she was 25 years and just 90 days into delivering her son.

She was the youngest member of that local body and remains only one of the two surviving members of that governing committee.

Then a political turn of events saw her getting elected as the president of the panchayat defeating a formidable Marxist leader in 1968 where she continued till 1979.

In the elections held that year, she contested as an Independent backed by the Left and the Antony faction of the Congress and romped home with the biggest margin of majority in the district, stripping the opponent from the Congress (I) of his deposit.

She chose to quit the scene by the time of the next election as she found the electoral arena too political to her liking.

Proud family

The rigours of being a people’s representative meant that she often had to be away from her three young children, including two daughters, who largely abhorred the panchayat that took their mother away often.

That her husband late M.J. Jacob had to accompany her on longer trips to Thiruvananthapuram for matters of governance didn’t help them either.

“There were times when we had wished the panchayat office to simply collapse so that our mother will no longer have to go there,” chuckled her son Benny Jacob, a retired professor who is now the principal of a private college.

But now her children realise that their mother could lay claim to many feats that few women of her era could and are proud of it.

“The PHC she brought has developed into a hospital with an outpatient wing. She started two schools and brought power to the nearby Kuttamangalam village among other things,” said Mr. Jacob swelling with pride.

Ms. Jacob, who stays healthy, seems content leaving behind that legacy.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 4:50:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/a-veteran-watches-poll-scene-with-content/article33243906.ece

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