One of the founding leaders of the Kerala Congress (Mani) regional party and a nine-time MLA from Changanassery, CF Thomas passed away at a private hospital in Thiruvalla Sunday at the age of 81. He had been ill for several months.
Thomas, born to CT Francis and Annamma Francis in 1939, entered politics through the Kerala Students Union (KSU), the student outfit of the Congress. He later left the party to join hands with KM Mani and others who were feeling disillusioned within the Congress and went on to create a regional outfit called the Kerala Congress which drew its support mainly from farmers and Christian voters in central Kerala. A few years after its formation, the Kerala Congress (M) allied with the Congress and has remained with the party ever since, barring a few years in between.
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Thomas contested Assembly elections for the first time from Changanassery in Kottayam district in 1980 and went on to win a record nine consecutive times from the same seat till the latest election in 2016. He remained an MLA for 40 years and is considered a modern architect of Changanassery, which grew into a major town in Kottayam district. In the Congress-led UDF government between 2001 and 2006, Thomas served as the minister for rural development, registration and khadi.
Thomas was known for being a close confidante of KC(M) chief KM Mani until the latter’s death in 2019. Following his death and the party suffering a vertical split between factions led by PJ Joseph and Mani’s son Jose K Mani, Thomas chose to join the faction led by Joseph. In the Kerala Assembly, he was the deputy chairman of the Joseph faction of the party. During the recent no-confidence vote against the LDF government, Thomas was absent from Assembly proceedings due to his ill-health.
With the death of Thomas, a large void has formed within the Kerala Congress which has been sailing through turbulent weather for the past one year. With local body and Assembly elections round the corner, the party, especially Joseph, will miss the experience and seniority of a leader like Thomas.
“He was a father figure to me whom I loved and respected a lot. Even during his illness, I met him and asked about him. He also asked about my mother at home. He contributed to the development of the central-Travancore region and the Kerala Congress (M). He was always with the people,” Jose K Mani told the local Manorama news.
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