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When a Kerala election made headlines in The New York Times

The screen grab of report appeared in The New York Times in September 1970.

It’s election time again, and Kerala is adored for being a politically conscious state worldwide. Election outcomes in Kerala have been of interest to several stakeholders for years, and a look back reveals how an election result in Kerala made it to the pages of The New York Times with prominent display way back in September 1970.

The New York Times, one of the largest media publications in the United States, ran a news report with the headline “Mrs. Gandhi a Surprise Victor in Kerala” on September 19, 1970, when the Congress faction led by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi scored a major victory in assembly elections in Kerala fighting against CPM.

In fact, there was a specific reason for the international media to lay their eyes on Kerala as the assembly election was held in one of the most turbulent political climates in India, and Kerala scripted a new political narrative for the entire country with those election results. Indira Gandhi emerged as a strong leader despite the Congress party splitting after she was expelled from the Congress for violating party discipline.

“The Prime Minister’s New Congress party captured the largest bloc of seats in the state assembly and, with the seats of her election allies added, obtained a majority. The biggest loser in the election, whose results were not announced until late tonight, was the Marxist Communist party, known as the left Communists. The party was apparently badly hurt by Mrs. Gandhi’s new ‘Socialist’ image,” the report in The New York Times said.

It also added “The 52‐year‐old Prime Minister, who considered the election important enough to campaign personally through the state this week, said that if this electoral alliance succeeded, she would follow the same pattern in future elections, including national ones. In the campaign she asked Keralans to vote for the parties that supported her in Parliament, and the results have been interpreted as a personal triumph for her.”

In fact, the state election in 1970 also witnessed the rise of young political leaders like Pinarayi Vijayan and Oommen Chandy. Both Pinarayi Vijayan and Oommen Chandy made their debut in the 1970 elections and scored a thumping victory. While Vijayan won the seat from Kuthumparamba in Kannur, Chandy won from Puthupally in Kottayam.

The election resulted in CPI forming a government under C Achutha Menon and backed by the Congress faction led by Indira Gandhi that won 30 seats.

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