A tribal head (ooru mooppan) has won with flying colours that too in a general seat in the Idukki grama panchayat, a first in local body elections.
Sukumaran Kani, who contested as United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate from the Mazhuvadi ward of the Kanjikuzhy grama panchayat, won with a margin of 193 votes.
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) fielded a representative of the Jose K. Mani faction of the Kerala Congress (M).
Then there was the added pressure of a Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) local leader, who contested as a rebel.
Sukumaran’s settlement is in the Mazhuvadi ward and it has a connection with the UDF. It has been named ‘Oommen Chandy Colony’ after the settlers there were issued title deeds in 1974.
Sukumaran said it was the intervention of former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy that enabled his candidature in Ward 9.
He said he visited Mr. Chandy and informed him about his wish to contest the local body elections and the latter asked the District Congress Committee president to allot a seat to him.
He said there were only 247 tribal voters among the 1,250 voters in the Mazhuvadi ward and his personal connection as a Congress worker helped him win the election.
Normally tribal chieftains do not contest in elections. Sukumaran belongs to the Mannan community, the only one to have a King as its traditional ruler in southern India.
The Mannan tribe is one of the major tribal communities having settlements in Idukki and parts of Ernakulam and Kottayam.
The headquarters of the community is at Kozhimala, where members under tribal King Raman Rajamannan celebrate annual festivals and other functions.
The Mannan community lives deep in the forest and is mainly settled in the buffer zone of the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary at Kozhimala.