When a pregnant Accamma Cherian took on sexism and election


Some political leaders take to sexism like fish to water. There was a time in Kerala when they couldn't get away with it. Meenachil, a constituency dotted with valleys and rivulets under the former Travancore-Cochin state, became part of history in 1953. It was here that Kerala witnessed the first bypoll to the Lok Sabha. P T Chacko , the MP of Meenachil quit barely a year after he had won the first general elections. This set the stage for the contest between Accamma Cherian and George Thomas Kottukapally. Accamma Cherian, a woman of fiery temper and a former Congress office-bearer, was now facing the election as a Left independent.

The Congress was waging a battle against the very same woman who had led the historic protest march in 1938 against the then ruler and Dewan of erstwhile Travancore. Accamma's change of base left the Congress workers seething. They were relentless. In an election convention of Kottukapally, C M Stephen fumed, "The Congress will flow like a river, smoothly. Pattom Thanupillai and Accamma Cherian are mere drops on the surface of the vast expanse of the river. They have fallen off to Praja Socialist Party and Communist party. The river still flows, purged of all impurities. This is not a Mahabharata war, what is going to happen is a war between the Devas and Asuras".

Accamma Cherian was pregnant when she contested the bypolls. Her election symbol was an elephant. A Congress leader, obviously got carried away and shamelessly mocked at Accamma Cherian during a convention held at Ayyappan Kovil. "She is going to deliver an elephant calf," he said, emitting a shriek of laughter. The ploy was to stir up emotions against Accamma Cherian for leaving Congress and contesting the polls as a Left independent.

Kottukapally was barely pleased. He didn't conceal his displeasure when he met the leader who cracked that disparaging joke. He gave an earful to the speaker. "She is a woman of honour and dignity. She may be my political opponent, but I will not at any cost allow anyone to snub her personally," Kottukapally thundered.

When the results came, Congress retained the seat with Kottukappally winning with a majority of 40259 votes. The first bypoll in Kerala for the Lok Sabha also became memorable for the way it set high standards of mutual respect between the candidates.  

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