KR Gouri, affectionately referred to as Gouriamma by her followers, passed away earlier today at the age of 102. The famed political leader was a towering figure in Kerala’s communist movement and the first revenue minister of Kerala. She is being remembered by her political contemporaries for her firm resolve which is said to have served as an inspiration to generations of women in the state. Her political accomplishments cement her name in the annals of the state’s political history as the ‘iron lady’ who managed to accomplish without ever losing sight of her ideals despite being faced with overwhelming odds.
Prior to the formation of the Kerala state Gouri was elected to the Travancore-Kochi Legislative Assembly on two separate occasions. The communist stalwart won 13 out of the 16 elections held upon the foundation of the state of Kerala and held multiple ministerships including having the distinction of being the state’s first Minister for Revenue and Excise in the state’s first communist government led by EMS Nambooridipad. She had also been championed as one of the “architects of land reforms in the state of Kerala.” The political maestro held the portfolio in the communist led Council of Ministers in the years 1957, 1967, 1980 and 1987, respectively, building a reputation as one of the founding members of the state administration.
Gouri had served as the Minister for Agriculture and Social Welfare under the EK Nayanar government between January 1980 and October 1981 and was Minister for Industries, Social Welfare, Vigilance and Administration of Justice in the second Nayanar ministry between March 1987 and 1991. Following her expulsion from the CPI (M) in 1994 for engaging in what the CPI (M) described as “anti-party activities,” she remained undeterred and laid the foundations of her own fringe political party which she christened as the Janathipathiya Samrakshana Samithy (JSS).
Her party went on to partner with the Indian National Congress (INC) led UDF Coalition. During this coalition she had held the following portfolios under the Oomen Chandy cabinet between 2004 to 2006. Her profiles included the Agriculture University, Animal Husbandry and Coir. Gouriamma eventually broke off from the coalition owing to political differences. Following her disillusionment with the UDF’s ideology, she concentrated her political efforts in cooperation with the Left Democratic Front (LDF) over the past few years of her life.
A Leader who Never Compromised on her Ideals
Her marriage with another communist stalwart TV Thomas did not deter her from her political beliefs; despite being married to Thomas she chose CPI (M)’s side when it had decided to break away from the main party in 1964. This was move unseen in Indian society in that era. Gouriamma was never known to be confined to political rhetoric and her free-spirited political opinion may perhaps be best be described with the following incident:
She broke all imposed ideological protocols by visiting a Hindu temple in her hometown of Alappuzha. The political leader found herself right in the middle of a religious ceremony inside the temple, where she was worshipped as part of rituals associated with the religious practice of ‘Nari Pooja.’ This incident from five years ago was unprecedented but highlight the bold, resolute yet boundless nature of one of the states “great political leaders of Kerela.”