P T Thomas, the Congress leader and Thrikkakkara MLA who died on Wednesday, was a person of convictions. And that made all the difference. Unlike many of his contemporaries from different political parties, Thomas never changed his stances for electoral gains or to appease vote banks. He was a rare Congressman who could question both the Communists and the Church at one go.
Thomas, perhaps, was the only politician in Kerala who stood firm on his stand in favour of the report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel headed by Madhav Gadgil. Even when the whole political body, cutting across ideological lines, feared to mention the report, Thomas maintained that the report, commonly known as Gadgil report, should be implemented. It cost him the ticket to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Idukki, a seat he had won by a whopping margin of over 74,000 votes in 2009. The Congress dropped him from the list of candidates fearing the Church's stiff opposition to the Gadgil report would cost it dearly if Thomas was fielded.
Thomas was not an environmental fundamentalist. His approach was highly democratic. His stance was that “the recommendations of the Madhav Gadgil committee should be implemented after taking people into confidence and protecting their land, livelihood and all other rights.”
While representing Idukki in the Lok Sabha, he had organised a meeting of some 500 people in his native village, Upputhode, to explain the recommendations of the Gadgil panel. The meeting was sabotaged by a group of priests and their associates. Thomas went on to say openly that the Church was engaged in fearmongering while the Left front was trying to fish in the troubled waters.
Thomas never hesitated to question the Church even after the Gadgil report episode which cost him his seat. Recently, when the Pala Bishop made the controversial 'narcotic jihad' remark against Muslims, Thomas was the first one to call its bluff. He took no time to rightly state that the wedge being created by the statement (by the bishop) in society was very dangerous.
In P T Thomas's unexpected demise, Congress loses a seasoned and sharp parliamentarian too. Thomas was known for his vocal, yet dignified, attack on political opponents inside and outside the assembly. Inside the House, Thomas used to attack Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, especially during debates over the sensational gold smuggling scam. His name was among the probable replacements of Ramesh Chennithala as the Leader of the Opposition after the Congress-led United Democratic Front's rout in the April assembly polls. Even though the Congress central leadership picked V D Satheesan for the crucial job, the party gave due recognition to Thomas by appointing him the KPCC working president in the organisational restructuring. Though often identified as a part of the 'A' faction of the state Congress, Thomas was among the party leaders who put the interests of the party above the group. His decision to stay away from factional politics during the most challenging times of the party proved this.
Like the Church and the Communists, Thomas did not spare Corporates too. He has been fighting the Kitex company for long for allegedly polluting the Kadambrayar which flows through his Thrikkakkara assembly constituency.
He won from Thrikkakara for the first time in 2016 defeating LDF's Sebastian Paul by 11,996 votes. In 2021, the LDF fielded Dr J Jacob, a popular doctor in the constituency, to take on Thomas. However, Thomas did not only win again but also improved his victory margin to 14,329 votes.
Thrikkakara re-elected Thomas despite a series of allegations levelled against him by the Left front. The latest among them was the charge that Thomas was involved in a black money deal which was busted by the Income Tax department. Thomas effectively countered the charges even as admitting that he was present at the house, where the alleged deal took place, to settle a long-pending property dispute. The re-election proved that Thrikkakara did not doubt Thomas' credibility.
Now, the Congress would have a tough time finding a replacement for Thomas not only in Thrikkakara but also in the party machinery as a whole.