By winning the bye-election to the Thrikkakara Assembly constituency in Ernakulam district, Uma Thomas has become the Congress party’s lone woman legislator in the current Kerala Legislative Assembly.
Uma won the bypoll by defeating the CPI(M)’s candidate Dr Jo Joseph by over 25,000 votes, which is the highest-ever victory margin since the formation of the Thrikkakara seat in 2011. Her late husband, senior Congress leader P T Thomas, who had represented the constituency since 2016, had won it with a margin of 14,300 votes in the 2021 Assembly polls.
Thomas’ demise in December last year, which necessitated the by-election, forced Uma, 56, to return to active political life three-and-a-half decades after her college politics days.
Uma, who works as a management professional with a leading private hospital in Kochi, had quit active politics after marrying Thomas in 1987. Both met at Government Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam in early 1984, when Uma was a leader of the Kerala Students Union (KSU), the Congress party’s students wing, and the vice-chairman of the students’ union in the college.
Thomas, who had also been an alumnus of the same college, was the KSU state president. Their marriage had faced strong objections from the family of Uma, who belongs to the Hindu community. The couple has two sons.
After their marriage, Uma got fully engaged in the family life. She, however, used to take part in Thomas’ campaigns actively when he contested the Assembly or the Lok Sabha polls. Known as a singer during her college days, Uma used to hit the campaign trails singing songs in a bid to boost her husband’s poll prospects.
The passing away of Thomas put the onus of carrying forward his political legacy on Uma. Although a novice in electoral politics, she soon synced with the hustle of campaigning, tapping into the goodwill built by her husband in the belt over many years.
In her bypoll campaign, Uma projected herself as a seasoned politician, without running into any row or controversy.
After winning the election, Uma said, “PT (Thomas) is my strength. I dedicate my win to PT. My contest was not against Jo Joseph (CPM candidate), but against Pinarayi Vijayan (Kerala Chief Minister). Development should be people-friendly,” making a reference to Vijayan’s ambitious semi high-speed K-Rail project, which is being opposed by affected people.
When the Congress named Uma as its Thrikkakara candidate last month, there had been rumblings in the party against her nomination, with a party section sceptical about her ability to take on the Vijayan-led CPI(M) in the electoral battle. Her perceived image in the fray was as a widow of the late legislator.
However, as the campaign moved on and issues rolled in, Uma displayed the political acumen of a seasoned leader. Making the pitch for “a vote for PT (P T Thomas)… to complete the dreams left behind by PT”, she went around the constituency with the persona of a next-door person.
Even when Congress veteran K V Thomas raised a banner of revolt by joining hands with the CPI(M), Uma remained unfazed. Her confidence also stemmed from the local popularity of her late husband, who had represented the Thodupuzha Assembly constituency twice before winning two consecutive terms from Thrikkakara seat. Thomas had also got elected to the Lok Sabha from Idukki in 2009.