As Idukki is giving its verdict in the local body polls today, one thing that is going to be a serious topic for discussion will be the absence of Pempila Orumai, a prominent women plantation workers’ movement . The organisation has opted out of contesting election after their elected members switched allegiance last term.

In the last election, the movement fielded their candidates and won three seats, including a block panchayat division. But two of them joined Congress while the other joined CITU.  It was with the support of two members from Pembila Orumai that UDF won a majority in Munnar grama panchayat. This time, the leaders of the movement had decided that they would not be contesting.

Pembilai Orumai leaders said that they fielded 26 members in the grama panchayath and five in the block panchayats in the last polls, winning two seats in grama panchayat and one in the block. While one of their prominent leaders, Gomathy Augustine, won from Devikulam block panchayat division, others Vellathai and Mariyamma became members at Munnar panchayat.

”After results were declared, Vellathai and Mariyamma joined Congress while Gomathi Augustine had joined CITU. If any member wins under Pembila Orumai after the election, mainstream parties will hijack them,” said Lissy Sunny, president of Pembila Orumai.

“Now we have over 2,000 members who have unanimously decided against contesting the local body election this time. We asked Gomathi not to contest under Pempila Orumai. I approached the Idukki collector,  requesting not to allow Gomathi to use the name and flag of the Pembilai Orumai for her election campaign,” Sunny said.

“Though I am not in the fray this time, I will continue to fight the plantation workers’ issues,” said Gomathi Augustine. The Pembilai Orumai movement was formed in September, 2015, with plantation workers  who demanded hike in wages and bonus payments for over 4,000 women employees. The protest was led by Lissy and Gomathi and the movement emerged as one of the most powerful organisations in Idukki district.

The success of the movement helped Pembila Orumai field its own candidates in the last local body polls. However, internal rifts  broke out in the movement, forcing Gomathi to leave Pembilai Orumai and join CITU. She left the party later. Gomathi contested the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Idukki as an independent candidate but won only a few votes. High range Samrakshana Samithi(HRSS), a people’s movement formed under the Catholic Church for the protection of farmers in the district, has decided to opt out of pols.