The freedom movement at the National level had a direct impact on Kerala’s political history. The Salt Satyagraha found its echo here. The Vaikom temple entry Satyagraha for permitting lower castes entry into the temple gained the recognition as a direct challenge to the existing political and hierarchical supremacy of the rulers and by extension the British rule. The very presence of Gandhiji and various people’s movements led by the congress party also contributed to the national movement for fighting against the British in Kerala. Congress leaders were in the frontline of all political movements to protest against British’s rule and ultimately freedom struggle in the state was become the struggle of congress to fight for the violated rights of people of the state especially millions of poor and marginalized class.
There were innumerable revolts against the British Supremacy from very early times due to their ruthless exploitation and domination and by the beginning of 19th century, the infuriated masses tried to throw off the burden of British domination. Congress party was one of the leading forces that questioned and fought against the atrocities of the British regime in the state. Congress party greatly agitated against the contemporary social iniquities such as untouchability and unsociability at that time.
Towards the end of the 19th century congress movement was spreading across India. Many prominent persons worked for Indian National Congress from Kerala. G.P. Pillai, Sir. C. Sankaran Nair and Rairu Nambiar were some among them. C. Sankaran Nair from Ottapalam was the first Malayali who presided over the congress sessions for years. He was the president of the Amaravathi Session of the Congress in 1897. By 1919 Congress activities gained momentum in Malabar. Gandhiji’s influence on state congress was increasing in 1920s. Non co-operation and Khilafat movement and Salt Satyagraha flared up the national spirit in Malabar. Some of the early leaders of freedom movement in Malabar were K. Kelappan, Muhamed Abdurahiman, K.P. Kesava Menon and K. Madhavan Nair.
Mahatma Gandhi provided the impetus to this national movement and had a remarkable influence on freedom struggle in the state. The lower strata of the society were considered as untouchables and were not allowed to enter even the temple roads of Kerala. The non-violent Guruvayoor Satyagraha movement and the Vaikom Satyagraha movement, led by Gandhiji helped the doorway of the backward social classes to the public roads adjoining the Vaikom temple. In 1936, the Temple Entry Proclamation was issued in 1936 by Sree Chithira Thirunal Balaramavarma Maharaja, the ruler of Thiruvithamkur and people of all castes were allowed in this temple.
In 1930, British imposed high revenues on salt also restricted the production of salt to the people in the country. This enraged masses throughout the nation and in Kerala, under the leadership of K. Kelappan, the law was confronted with resistance and salt was produced. In several places, particularly at Payyannur and Kozhikode, salt laws were broken and hundreds of agitators were arrested.Other eminent leaders like K.P. Kesava Menon, Muhammed Abdurahiman and K. Madhavan Nair also participated in all these movements in the state.
In Thiruvithamkur the nature of freedom movement was very different. The caste organizations played an important role in bringing out changes in Thiruvithamkur.In Thiruvinthamkur the caste organizations fought for social justice and proper representation of backward sections of the society in the legislature and government jobs. The Travancore State Congress was also founded and some notable leaders were T.K Madhavan, T.M Varghese, C Kesavan and Pattam Thanupilla fought for the violated rights of masses in the state under British rule. In Cochin, Prajamandalam came into existence and the significant leaders were Panampilly Govinda Menon and Ikkanda Warrier.
The Home Rule Movement also had its followers in the Malabar District. Sri. K.P.Kesava Menon worked as the Secretary of the Home Rule League as well as the Congress Committee. His political activities caused a great stir all over the Malabar district. During the period of the First World War, the national movement gained momentum in Malabar. At the same time, the Khilafat movement stirred the Muslim population of Malabar.” The most important event connected with the political movement in Malabar during this period was the Malabar rebellion of 1921″. One of the tragic episodes connected with this rebellion was the ‘Wagon Tragedy’ in which 61 of the 90 Mapillas carried as prisoners in a closed railway goods wagon from Tirur to Coimbatore died of suffocation. It may be noted that the rebellion of 1921 was a national upheaval against British authority.
The Congress workers seemed to be inactive in the immediate post-rebellion period. But in 1923, Sri. K. P. Kesava Menon and a few other Congress workers started the Mathrubhumi, a Malayalam daily from Calicut to popularise the message of Congress. The Salt Satyagraha, started under the leadership of Gandhiji in 1930, had its reflections in Kerala as well. Payyannur became the chief venue of Salt Sathyagraha in Malabar. So eventually Malabar became the epicenter of national movements in Kerala for long time.
During the Second phase of Civil Disobedience Movement (1932), the Congress became an ‘unlawful organization’ in the eyes of the British government. In Malabar, thousands of men and women took part in the agitation nullifying the threats of the government. The withdrawal of the Civil Disobedience Movement was followed by a split in the Congress Party viz. the rightists and the leftists. The leftist group of the Congress party emerged as the Communist Party of Malabar in 1939. They were inspired by the Russian revolution and they lost faith in the Gandhian Principles. But, they stood with the Congress and fought against the foreign government.
After the Second World War, the Congress continued its vigorous struggle for freedom. Malabar continued to be a part of the Madras state even after the attainment of freedom in August 1947. In the general election of 1951, the Congress Party of Malabar secured 4 seats in the Madras Legislature. The reorganization of States in November 1, 1956 led to the formation of the new state of Kerala, combining the three regions -Travancore, Cochin and Malabar.
Among the freedom fighters of Malabar, the names of K. Kelappan, K. P. Kesava Menon, K. Madhava Menon and Muhammed Abdur Rahiman, Moidu Maulawi were very prominent at that time.
The princely states of Travancore and Cochin had their own struggles and agitations to fight for the people’s rights in these states from the very beginning of the British period. The agitations which took place in the early period aimed at the establishment of good governance. Later, there was a struggle for the achievement of political rights like the participation and representation of people in various levels of administration.
In the earlier years of Congress formation in national level, Congress had a small presence from Travancore.Shri.Kesavappillai from Trivandrum attended in the first session of Congress that took place Bombay on December 28 in 1885.Later in 1891 Malayalee memorial was formed by Barrister.G.P Pillai for the rights of locals in government service. In 1897, Shri.C.Sankaran Nair presided over the congress convention that took place in Amaravati.In 1929 Congress formed its branch in Trivandrum.Barrister A.K pillai was the secretary of the party unit. Later in 1921 KPCC was formed in Ottapalam and later rivandrum also formed a congress committee in the same year.
The Civil Disobedience Movements started by Gandhiji in 1920 had its immediate echoes in Travancore. The Congress Committee of the state organized meetings, processions and boycott of British goods. In the early thirties, Travancore passed through one of the stormiest Political agitations in its history. The agitation known as Nivarthana movement was started as a protest against the constitutional reforms of 1932. In spite of the repressive measures of the government, the agitation ultimately ended in success. Specific considerations were given to each community as a result of the agitation.
In 1938, the Travancore State Congress came into being. Pattom Thanu Pillai was its first president. C. Kesavan, P. K. Kunju, T.M Varghese were the other prominent leaders of the State Congress. The aim of the new organisation was the achievement of fully responsible government for the people of Travancore.The Quit India Movement did not produce any violent reaction in Travancore. But the post-war period witnessed the crowding of dark clouds in the political horizon of Travancore. In January 1946 Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyer announced his proposal for constitutional reforms which provided for an irrevocable executive on the ‘American model’. The State Congress rejected the scheme as unacceptable.
The achievement of responsible government in Travancore came as a dramatic end to a series of sensational developments that took place in the year 1946-47. In July 1947, Sir. C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer announced that Travancore would set itself as an independent state with effect from the date of British withdrawal from India. The declaration of the Diwan caused a great controversy inside and outside the state. The reckless use of force by the Government proved to be ineffective against the state-wide mass movement led by the congress party. The Diwan was attacked and he soon resigned the office and left Travancore. With that struggle, the struggle for responsible government came to a successful end in the state. The first popular ministry of Travancore consisting of Pattom Thanu Pillai, T. M. Varghese and C. Kesavan, came to power on March 24, 1948.
The policy for merger and integration of states initiated by the state Ministry of the government of India under the guidance of Sardar Vallabhai Patel paved the way for the integration of the States of Travancore and Cochin. As a result, on 1st July 1949, the State of Travancore-Cochin came into existence. The Cochin Maharaja was pensioned and Sri Chitira Tirunal Bala Rama Varma, the Maharaja of Travancore was appointed as the Rajapramukh of the new state. The legislators and ministers of the two states were combined to form the legislature and the ministry of Travancore-Cochin.
The first popular ministry in Travancore- Cochin was headed by T. K. Narayana PiIlai, the Chief Minister of Travancore. In the general elections of 1951-52, the congress party secured 44 seats out of 108 in the state legislature. In the mid-term election held in February 1954 a Congress Ministry by Panampilli Govinda Menon assumed office. This Cabinet fell in March 1956. The fall of this ministry was followed by the first spell of President Rule in the state. Later in 1957 November 1, Kerala was formed..
The first general election to the Kerala State Legislature was held in February 1957. The Communist Party of India and a few Independents supported by it secured 65 out of 126 seats in the legislature. Presidents Rule came to an end on April 5, 1957 and a Communist ministry under the Chief Minister of E. M. S. Namboothiripad came to power. Anti-people policies and brutal ways of cell rule by the Communist Government evoked opposition in all quarters of the state, which led to innumerable agitations across the state that resulted in its overthrow in 1959. President’s rule was proclaimed once again in Kerala.
In February 1960, fresh elections were held to the Kerala State Legislature. There was an alliance between the Congress, the P.S.P and the Muslim League against the Communist Party. In the wake of the victory of the alliance, Congress-P.S.P coalition ministry with Pattom. A. Thanu Pillai as Chief Minister was sworn in on 22nd February 1960 and President’s Rule came to an end. In September 1962, Pattom. A. Thanu Pillai was appointed as the Governor of Punjab state. R. Sankar, the leader of the Congress Party became the Chief Minister. This Ministry resigned office on September 10, 1964. With the fall of the Sankar Ministry, Kerala State was again placed under President’s Rule. The major political development of the period was the split in the Communist Party namely the Marxist Communist Party.
In the mid-term elections of 1965 all the political parties including congress contested independently without any electoral alliance. Hence none of the parties got a clear majority of seats in the new Legislature. On March 24, 1965, dissolving the newly elected Legislative Assembly, President’s Rule was imposed in Kerala.
In the General Election of 1967, the Communist Party was voted to power headed by E. M. S. Namboothiripad. However, this Ministry fell down in October 1969 and a new Non-Marxist coalition Ministry under the leadership of C.Achutha Menon, the leader of the C.P.I was sworn in on November 1, 1969. Congress party was one of the main allies of this front.
On August 1, 1970, the Achutha Menon Ministry resigned to seek a fresh mandate. In the General Election held in September 1970, a united front under the joint leadership of the Indian National Congress and the Communist Party of India won a clear majority. A new ministry under the leadership of C. Achutha Menon came to power. However in the wake of the declaration of Emergency by the President of India in June 1975, the general elections due to take place in Kerala in 1976 was postponed.
During emergency period congress party stood behind Indiraji and the political and social life of Kerala was very peaceful at that time. With the withdrawal of Emergency, General Elections were held in March 1977 and congress led coalition won in the elections. As a result of that a new Ministry headed by K.Karunakaran, the leader of the Congress Legislature Party, assumed office on March 23, 1977. However, the Karunakaran Ministry was short lived as the Chief Minister had to resign after a month. The fall of the Karunakaran Ministry was followed by the formation of a new ministry headed by A.K. Antony. This Ministry was in office from 1977 to 1978. The new Ministry which assumed office on October 29, 1978 was headed by P.K. Vasudevan Nair, the leader of the C.P.l. It continued to be in power till October 12, 1979. Another Ministry headed by the Muslim League leader C.H. Muhammad Koya held office from October 12 to December 5, 1979. The Koya ministry resigned and President’s Rule was proclaimed on December 5, 1979. Elections to the Legislative Assembly were held in January 1980. The left Democratic Front Ministry headed by E.K. Nayanar, the Marxist leader, was sworn in on January 25, 1980.
The Nayanar Ministry fell on October 20, 1981, following the withdrawal of support by the Congress group; Kerala again came under the President’s Rule. A new ministry under the Congress by K. Karunakaran assumed office on December 25. But he could not survive for long. Kerala had another spell of President’s Rule from March 17 to May 23, 1982.
In the general elections to the Kerala Assembly held in May 1982 the United Democratic Front led by the Congress assumed office on May 24, 1982 with K. Karunakaran as Chief Minister. It continued office for a full term. In the general election held to the Kerala Legislative Assembly In March 1987 the United Democratic Front suffered defeat and L.D.F ministry with C.P.M leader E.K.Nayanar as Chief Minister came to power in Kerala on March 25, 1987. In 1991, the Chief Minister himself dissolved the ministry and faced a new mandate before the normal completion of office. The U.D.F led by Congress party came to power. K. Karunakaran became the Chief Minister. On 16th March 1995, K.Karunakaran resigned and A.K. Antony sworn in as the new Chief Minister on 20th March 1995. General Elections were held in the month of May in 1996. LDF won a simple majority and the new ministry once again headed by E.K. Nayanar came into power. In 2001 again Congress led UDF got a landslide victory in assembly elections (100 out of 140 assembly seats) and in the latter part of his tenure he resigned and then Shri. Oommen Chandy sworn in as the chief minister.
Now Congress led government under the Chief Ministership of Oommen Chandy with UDF partners is giving thrust to the development of state and to provide support to the marginalised and poor people of the state. Congress party led by Shri.Ramesh Chennithala is supporting the government’s initiatives and also conduct various activities to publicize the achievements of the Government and to shield it from the politically motivated attacked of opposition parties. The Party leadership and Government move in with better coordination, taking party to confidence in policy matters. The Government and party will be in the forefront to ensure speedy development, communal harmony and to ensure Care for all those who need support from Government.