Meet the 25-Year-Old ‘Red Star’ Taking on Kerala CM Oommen Chandy
Will Puthuppally in Kerala be witness to the biblical tale of David vs Goliath in the upcoming Assembly elections?
25-year-old Jaick C Thomas, a student leader from Kerala, has no time to plan his birthday this year. The date may coincide with an official announcement of his electoral battle with none other than the chief minister of Kerala Oommen Chandy.
Jaick is busy gearing up to make the fight as tough as possible.
David Vs Goliath?
A student of International Relations at Annamalai University, Jaick C Thomas is the state president of Student Federation of India (SFI) in Kerala.
Puthuppally, the battleground, has seen Kerala CM Oommen Chandy claim 11 consistent wins. An MLA for the past 46 years, Chandy has never lost an election. But as history reminds us, Chandy was just 26 years old when he won his first assembly election in 1970.
Speaking over the phone from Puthuppally, Jaick C Thomas sounds humble yet confident of a winning performance:
I am not afraid of chief minister’s political power or his might. I have got my politics from campuses and I have been trained to fight the big-wigs with courage and conviction.Jaick C Thomas
A native of Manarcadu village, in Kottayam district of Kerala, Jaick was born to a Christian family. A Jacobite, Jaick is a member of Manarcad St. Mary’s Cathedral church and believes that his association with the Church played an important role in his ‘liberal mindset’.
With a sense accomplishment in his voice Jaick says:
When I was growing up, all my family members always voted for Oommen Chandy. There was no support for CPM ever. Once I became a member of SFI and got active in campus politics I explained the party’s ideology and what it stands for to my family. Now my family is converted.
By 16 May this year, Jaick will have to extend this ‘spirit of conversion’ to the voters of Puthuppally, who have consistently proven their loyalty to Chandy.
A Prominent Student Leader
Jaick emerged as a prominent student leader in 2010, during a strike conducted by the SFI in CMS College, Kottayam. As a student of BA(Communicative English), he led the protests against the ‘arbitrary’ restructuring of the syllabus.
We were protesting the dilution of the syllabus. The strike went on for close to three months. During one such protest, there was a clash between the students and the police, and they charged me with a criminal case. I was dismissed from the college. For almost an year I studied from home, but I passed with distinction. The cases are still pending against me.
It was then that Jaick C Thomas faced his current political rival Oommen Chandy for the first time. As the leader of the opposition, Chandy extended his support to the college management and demanded students with ‘criminal background’ be expelled from the college.
He played a crucial role in my dismissal, but I had never imagined, I will be contesting against him one day. I had never thought I will be holding any posts. All I want is for students to be guided in the right direction on the right issues.
Unique Campaign Ideas
As a student leader, Jaick is known for his unique campaign ideas and mobilising students. He grabbed eyeballs and gained supporters for his very first campaign in his first year at college. The campaign – Seal your Boots – urged students to walk over thousands of posters of George W Bush, to protest America’s Operation in Iraq.
To kick off his election campaigning Jaick has already planned a ‘classroom protest’ against a bizarre rule implemented at a college in Kozhikode, where men and women are not allowed to share a bench. The student group plans to hold special classes led by eminent sociologists, feminists and writers with men and women sitting close on the same benches.
Campuses, the Breeding Grounds of Politics
Jaick accepts that his only experience in politics is through student activism but he is equally confident of chasing the former with latter.
I feel campuses in India need to be heavily politicised. Like it or not, politics does impact and interfere with our lives, one way or the other. The current government is hell bent on ‘cleansing’ campuses of their politics, but this can never be done. The most powerful resistance and political movements across the world have their genesis in campus politics.
The Politics of Protest
In 2015 after the implementation of the controversial beef ban, Jaick C Thomas organised beef festivals across colleges in South India. He was arrested and warned by the local administration against such activities. But, it is these ideas and the ‘spirit of protest’ he terms as his strength, to take on the Chief Minister of the state.
Puthuppally has elected Oommen Chandy with blind faith but the reality is that even a Congress worker can’t show a single achievement or development project that is unique to this area. Something that Puthuppally can be proud off. Mr Chandy has been an utter failure in doing anything of this sort in any sector and 46 years is not a small time.
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