This year saw the Left Democratic Front (LDF) returning to power in Kerala and issues like disappearance of 21 Keralites, attack on media persons by some lawyers and alleged encounter killings of Maoists keeping the government on tenterhooks. The LDF government received flak over the death of two Maoists, including a woman, in an encounter with police in Nilambur forests with major front partner CPI and CPI-M veteran V S Achutanandan decrying the handling of things. However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan made it clear he would not do anything that would destroy the morale of police.
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The year also saw an ugly attack on media personnel by a section of lawyers in front of the Kerala High Court following which journalists were denied access to cover proceedings in the high court and other subordinate courts. Guidelines were formulated for media personnel covering court proceedings.
In a tragic incident, 111 people were killed in an explosion during a fireworks display at the Puttingal temple at Paravur in Kollam district on April 10.
The rape and murder of a 30-year-old Dalit woman in Perumbavoor, which eventually proved costly for the Congress-led UDF in the assembly polls and the commuting of death sentence of Govindachamy in the sensational rape and murder case was 23-year-old Soumya who was pushed out from a running train in 2011, also hogged media headlines.
The stray dog menace continued to haunt the state throughout the year with four persons losing their lives and 701 people, including children, suffering dog bites. In retaliation, many stray dogs were culled in various parts of the state.
The state lost several eminent persons including eminent writer and Jnanpith award winner ONV Kurup, theatre director, playwright and poet Kavalam Narayana Panicker and popular actors Kalabhavan Mani, Jishnu and Kalpana.
As the year came to an end, state’s two famous shrines –Padmanabha Swamy and Lord Ayyappa temples — were caught in a row, the former over relaxation of dress code for women and the latter over a change of name.
While the executive officer of Padmanabha Swamy temple in the state capital permitted women wearing salwar kameez and churidar to offer worship in the shrine, the administrative committee objected. The Kerala High Court has now stayed the executive officer’s order stating status quo should continue.
As per the temple dress code, women can wear sarees, ‘mundu and neriyathu’ (traditional dress). They can wear salwar and churidar, but have to wrap a ‘mundu’ (dhoti) over it while entering the temple.
The renaming of the famed Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala by the Travancore Devaswom Board led to a controversy with the government declaring the move as ‘serious violation of rules’.
The temple, believed to have been established 1,800 years ago, is considered one among the biggest and most ancient shrines in the state. Since then, it has been known as Sree Dharma Sastha temple and the board had no right to change it, the government had said.
In July, Vijayan told the Assembly that 21 Muslim youths from the state had gone missing since June. There was suspicion that they could have joined Islamic State.
Two low intensity IED blasts took place in the court complexes at Kollam and Malappuram.
In May, Vijayan took over the mantel of chief minister for the first time. Though the LDF fought the assembly polls with 93-year-old V S Achutanandan, a former chief minister, as the face of the campaign, Vijayan piped him to the CM’s post and ‘VS’ ended being appointed ‘Kerala Castro’, who would advise and guide the party.
Achutanandan had to be content with being chairman of the Administrative Reforms Commission.
LDF won 91 of the 140 assembly seats, with UDF bagging 41, KC-M, which came out of the front on the bar bribery issue, six and BJP one seat.
Oommen Chandy-led UDF, which had faced the polls under a cloud of charges from bar bribery to solar scam, failed to convince voters and saw four of its ministers biting the dust — Shibu Baby John, K P Mohanan and K Babu and P K Jayalakshmi, besides Speaker N Shaktan and Deputy Speaker Palode Ravi.
Shocked by the front’s dismal performance, Chandy refused to even stake claim for the post of Opposition leader, paving the way for Ramesh Chennithala’s appointment.
The LDF’s euphoria over its sterling performance took a beating within months of its coming to power with E P Jayarajan, the No 2 in the Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet, forced to quit over nepotism charges for appointing his nephew, Sudheer Nambiar, son of CPI(M) leader and central committee member, P K Sreemathy, and another relative to top positions in state PSUs.
The resignation was a deep embarrassment for the chief minister, who was said to be close to Jayarajan.
Senior CPI(M) leader M M Mani was appointed to fill in the vacuum left by Jayarajan.
The 2016 Assembly election saw BJP making its entry into the house with former Union minister O Rajagopal winning from Nemom in Thiruvananthapuram district.
The year also saw the birth of a new political party BDJS — Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, launched by Vellapally Natessan, General Secretary Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), an organisation of the backward Ezhava community.