The dramatic entry of two young women in Sabarimala defying protests, Congress' surprise decision to field Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, devastating floods for a successive year that claimed over 100 lives, anti-CAA stir made 2019 an eventful year for Kerala.
The dramatic entry of two young women in Sabarimala defying protests, Congress’ surprise decision to field Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, devastating floods for a successive year that claimed over 100 lives, anti-CAA stir made 2019 an eventful year for Kerala. While Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala shared the stage in a rare show of camaraderie against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the Kerala Assembly passed a resolution, demanding scrapping of the CAA, amidst the dissenting voice of a lone BJP MLA.
Kerala became the first state to adopt a resolution against the CAA though Chief Ministers of certain non-BJP ruled, including West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee had declared they would not implement the controversial legislation.
Giving a rude shock to devotees and right wing groups and jubilation to progressive activists, two women, Bindu Ammini and Kanaka Durga, belonging to the traditionally barred age group–scripted history by stepping into Sabarimala in the early morning hours of January 3 this year. The entry of the activist women, with their faces covered in veils, came a day after a state-sponsored 620 km long human wall of women across the national highways of Kerala to uphold gender equality.
The southern state had witnessed unprecedented turmoil in 2018 after the CPI(M)-led LDF state government decided to implement the September 28 Supreme Court verdict, permitting women of all age groups into the Lord Ayyappa temple. However, since the 50-odd petitions against the verdict have been referred to a seven-judge bench by the apex court, the state government decided not to provide any security to young women wishing to trek to the hill shrine to offer prayers this year.
Young devotees, including activist Trupti Desai, who came from Pune along with six women for darshan were turned away following protests by devotees. The peaceful mandala season, which came to a close on December 26 and without any protests, came as a huge relief for the government.
A peaceful atmosphere ensured that there was an unprecedented rush of devotees this season, resulting in a huge increase in revenue for the temple board. But the repercussions of the Sabarimala women entry issue was strongly felt in the political scenario of Kerala. Contrary to hopes of its progressive stand on the issue reaping political dividends, the ruling LDF received a severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections held in April, with the Congress putting up a spirited show to rout the Left alliance. The ruling coalition could win only one of the 20 seats, emerging victorious in Aroor Lok Sabha segment.
The opposition Congress-led UDF made a clean sweep, netting the rest 19, even as party leader Rahul Gandhi triumphed in Wayanad with a huge margin of over four lakh votes against his nearest CPI rival. The Congress’ good show came as some kind of a relief to the national party, as it got drowned in many other states in an otherwise saffron surge where the BJP raced ahead with 303 Lok Sabha seats and ensure a successive term at the Centre.
Surprisingly, the BJP-NDA, which saw the Sabarimala issue as a “golden opportunity” and had led the frenzied protests against the women entry issue with the hope that it will help the party open account to the Lok Sabha from Kerala, failed to make any inroads, and its efforts came a cropper. The BJP has only one MLA in the state assembly.
Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from Wayanad, besides his traditional stronghold of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, came as a political surprise for many. Gandhi’s deft move saw the Left parties fuming as they were not keen he tried his luck from the state, probably sensing that it could affect their prospects. It was for the first time in the history of Kerala that a prime ministerial candidate was trying his poll luck from the state.
Gandhi won with a massive margin of over 4.31 lakh votes, even as he lost from his pocket-borough–Amethi. A year after the state had suffered a deluge, northern parts of Kerala were flooded yet again in August as heavy rains and widespread landslides wreaked havoc, claiming over 120 lives.
A large number of people, including women and children were killed as many went missing at Kavalapara in Malappuram and Puthumala in Wayanad districts when the massive landslides rocked the places. The gunning down of four Maoists– Karthi, Rema, Aravind and Manivasagan–by Kerala police in Palakkad district triggered a political row in the state as CPI, a major partner in the ruling LDF, attacked the government along with the opposition Congress.
The booking of two CPI (M) student activists under UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) for allegedly distributing pro-Maoist pamphlets also put the Left government led by Vijayan in the dock. The case has now been taken over by the NIA. Kerala also witnessed protests against the CAA, with agitations being held all over the state, including in front of Raj Bhavan, the residence of Governor Arif Mohammed Khan. Khan himself faced unprecedented protests when he attended the Indian History Congress at Kannur university, as delegates and students raised slogans and showed placards while he was speaking.
Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa also faced the wrath of protesters when he arrived in the state for temple visits. In a rare show of camaraderie in politics, Vijayan and Chennithala held a joint “satyagraha” in the state capital to protest against the CAA. The Malayalam film industry also lent its voice against the act by taking out marches and speaking out against the CAA in the social media. The year saw the passing away of Kerala Congress (M) supremo and former Finance Minister K M Mani after suffering from prolonged pulmonary disease. In the Assembly bypoll after Mani’s demise, the ruling LDF wrested Pala, the bastion which the veteran leader held for the last five decades. Former Kerala minister and NCP state president Thomas Chandy, MLA, also passed away.