Thiruvananthapuram: A tireless political warrior, life for CPI(M) veteran V S Achuthanandan has been a ceaseless struggle both against the class enemies as well as tormenters within his own party in a career spanning over seven decades.
The first Communist chief minister of Kerala hailing from truly working class background, 87-year-old Velikkakath Sankaran Achuthanandan has often surprised friends and rivals alike by bouncing back to the centre stage outwitting the machinations of foes to finish him politically.
In both 2006, when he became chief minister, and 2011, Achuthanandan made a dramatic come back into the poll arena to lead the LDF, outsmarting machinations of the rival faction in the Kerala CPI-M led by its state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, mainly on account of his massive popularity.
An “old school Marxist” for those outside the CPI(M), his inner-party rivals has often accused him of being prime source of the long-drawn factional trends in the state unit.
He was twice dropped from the party’s top most body Politburo after he became chief minister, for standing up against the ‘official faction´ on issues like charge sheeting of Vijayan in connection with a corruption case dating back to the 1990s.
Kerala chief minister VS Achuthanandan arrives at the Palakkad counting centre on Friday after he was declared elected from Malampuzha assembly constituency. PTI
India’s senior most Communist leader, Achuthanandan is the only surviving comrade among those who walked out of the undivided CPI to form the CPI(M) after the ideological schism shook Indian Left movement in early 1960s.
After remaining essentially an organisation builder in much of his career holding key posts like the state secretary, what metamorphosed Achuthanandan into a mass leader was his stint as opposition leader during 2001-06.
Silencing his critics, he spearheaded campaigns over a host of issues like sexual exploitation of young girls, corruption in high places and destruction of forests. These campaigns won support of a cross section of socially concerned people like rights activists, green groups and academics.
Even after becoming chief minister, Achuthanandan continued to be on the campaign mode sending earth movers to pull down illegal constructions at the hill station Munnar, exposing the lottery mafia, pursuing politically sensitive corruption cases and heading the struggle for a nationwide ban on toxic pesticide endosulfan.
Known for his inimitable gestures, razor-sharp words and unique style of delivery, Achuthanandan is an astute campaigner during the elections, who would turn highly tenacious if his a raw nerve is touched.
Achuthanandan was born on 20 October,1923 to Sankaran and Accamma in a backward class Ezhava family of straitened means in Punnapra in Alappzuha district.
He lost his mother when a four year old and had to give up education before completing the 8th standard. The young boy became an aid to his elder brother who ran a village tailoring shop and later took up work in a coir factory in Alappuzha, which was a bustling commercial townand cradle of trade union movement in Kerala.
It was his stint as a factory worker that turned Achuthanandan into a trade union organizer as the poverty and squalor of the coir and farm workers ignited the energies in him. He became an activist of the Travancore State Congress in 1938 and joined the Communist Party two years later.
Achuthanandan was assigned by the party to organize farm and plantation workers and participated in the Punnapra-Vayalar uprising spearheaded by the Communist Party against the moves of the Trvancore royal regime to remain a separate state on the even of the Indian independence.
He was jailed for five years and six months during and after the independence struggle and went underground for four-and-a-half years at different points of time.
Achuthanandan had been a member of the CPI and later CPI-M state secretariat since 1957 but had to face disciplinary action often in his career. He was demoted to the ranks in 1960s for organizing a blood-donation campaign for Indian soldiers fighting the Chinese attack, against the party line.
But he scaled the party hierarchy, especially after the formation of the CPI-M in 1964.
He was elected to the assembly from Ambalappuza ( 1967 and 1970), Maraikkulam (1991) and from Malampuzha (2001,2006 and 2009). He suffered an upset defeat, allegedly due to the perfidy of the opposing faction, in 1996 assembly polls in his home segment Mararikkulam, when he was widely projected as the chief ministerial candidate of the LDF.
After the initial shock, he managed to make a come-back and became opposition leader twice and chief minister in 2006.
A strict disciplinarian, Achuthanandan is a ‘yoga´ buff and a frugal eater, to which his physical and mental agility are attributed.
His wife P K Vasumathi is a retired nurse of the state health service. They have a son V S Arunkumar and a daughter V S Asha. In the fag-end of his tenure as chief minister, Achuthanandan had to face allegations of unduly promoting his son, who holds a top position in the state-run education establishment IHRDE.
The charges against Arunkumar are referred to the Lok Ayukta, an anti-corruption watchdog.
Though during his tenure as chief minister he has often run into controversies, mostly relating to the factional tussles in the CPI(M), Achuthanandan is credited with providing a transparent administration free of any major scams.