Also in death, incumbent Kerala Congress Speaker and four-time MPP PT Thomas sent a strong message. Her dying wish: No wreaths or church funeral or even a church service, but to play the song from the evergreen movie Chandrakalabham chaarthi urangum theeram during a service where the public can pay their respects.
Known for taking a stand, even if it meant ruffling a few feathers, the quintessential brand manager affectionately known as “PT” died of pancreatic cancer at CMC Vellore on Wednesday. He was 71 years old. He is survived by his wife Uma and his sons Vivek and Vishnu.
The Congress veteran’s strong secular and sociopolitical values set him apart. From a Catholic family, he married Uma, a Hindu Brahmin, who did not convert to Christianity against the wishes of many. He didn’t even insist that his sons be baptized at birth, leaving them the choice as adults.
Thomas was the incumbent MP for Thrikkakara in Ernakulam from where he won in 2016 and 2021. He was also elected MP for Thodupuzha twice from 1991-96 and 2001-2006.
Thomas told his last wish to his dear friend and social activist Dijo Kappan. After realizing the seriousness of his condition, he told Kappan that he wanted to be cremated at Ravipuram Crematorium in Kochi. As per her wish, her eyes were also donated on Wednesday.
In a note to his family, written on November 22, he asked them to lay some of his ashes on his mother’s grave at Upputhodu St Joseph’s Church Cemetery, Idukki District.
Written by poet Vayalar Ramavarma, the song Chandrakalabham chaarthi urangum theeram chosen by Thomas is about the beauty of nature. The poet speaks of the Earth filled with greenery and moonlight and caring hearts, asking an important question: will a person ever again have a chance to live on this captivating coast? The song is a reminder of the importance of life on Earth and the conservation of the beautiful planet.
It was then normal that the leader of Congress chose the song for his last moments.
His support for the report of the Gadgil committee which recommended the protection of the Western Ghats even aggravated the influence of the Catholic Church. Ironically, in 2014, a church-backed collective called the “Committee to Protect the High Ranges” held a fake funeral service on his behalf as a form of protest against his support for the Gadgil report.
His vehement support for the report came at a heavy cost. His position was a source of discomfort for the Diocese of Idukki of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, and the Bishop of Idukki openly opposed his candidacy. For his hardline stance, Congress denied him the Idukki seat in 2014, which he won in 2009 by 74,796 votes. The decision to withdraw it was taken during a four-hour meeting between Congress leaders and the AICC selection committee in New Delhi.
Except for Thomas and N Peethambara Kurup, a tainted leader from Kollam, all 11 sitting Congress MPs from Kerala were again given tickets. The result was that Congress lost the seat to the church-backed LDF candidate.
Born in 1950 to an agrarian Catholic family in Idukki, who migrated from Meenachil Taluk to Kottayam, Thomas took his first steps into politics when he was at school. He took part in the agitation as a member of the Union of Kerala Students for the Formation of Idukki District. He became a college counselor at Newman College, Thodupuzha, and rose to fame as an incendiary leader at Maharaja’s College and later at Government Law College, Ernakulam.
Thomas, who approached legislative business with all solemnity, was a mentor to many members of Congress. He often used Assembly Standing Orders to put the Treasury benches on their backs. His frequent harsh retorts often targeted Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and disrupted the ruling front.
“He was a beautiful human being, firm on his principles, his love of nature and democracy. He was the leading politician in Kerala not to be swayed by the disinformation campaign launched by special interests against the Western Ghats Ecology Panel report,” Madhav Gadgil said in his condolence message.
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