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New Delhi: Pinarayi Vijayan is set to become the next chief minister of Kerala after the Left Democratic Front (LDF) emerged triumphant in the 16 May state assembly election.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, chose Vijayan, 72, over V.S. Achuthanandan, 92, a former chief minister of the southern state, who led the Left’s election campaign.

“We are very happy that in a unanimous decision we have decided that comrade Pinarayi Vijayan has been proposed as the leader of the LDF legislative party," CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said while addressing a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram. “We will put this forward with the other parties of the Left Front as well."

The Left Front had refrained from announcing a chief ministerial candidate in the run-up to the election and both Achuthanandan and Vijayan had been seen as front-runners for the position. The two leaders in the past have had their differences.

“...considering comrade Achuthanandan’s age and physical limitations, we have come to the conclusion that comrade Pinarayi Vijayan will be our chief ministerial face," Yechury said.

Commenting on the future role of Achuthanandan, Yechury said, “Achuthanandan is like the Fidel Castro of Kerala. He will guide and inspire the party."

The decision was taken in a state secretariat meeting held in Kerala on Friday where a majority of the members were in favour of Vijayan’s selection. The meeting was attended by party general secretary Yechury and former general secretary Prakash Karat.

The move also comes as the party is making attempts to revive its organisational structure after fielding state and central committee members. This year, Vijayan contested elections for the first time since 1998.

The CPM is the largest party in the LDF, which secured 91 seats in the 140-member Kerala assembly in the vote count on Thursday. Analysts are hopeful of the state’s growth under Vijayan’s stewardship.

“Vijayan has a record of being a good minister and a reasonably modern-minded leader. Being a first-time chief minister, he would want to prove himself. Vijayan can provide a decent administration if he creates a good team from the 91 members that have been elected," said Paul Zacharia, a Thiruvananthapuram-based political commentator and writer.

He added, “While making the announcement, Yechury shared the dias with VS (Achuthanandan) which in itself is a good sign. VS may have resigned himself to being a figurehead. If VS decides to keep his ambitions in control it will be a fairly smooth government."

Born in 1944 to a toddy tapper family in Kannur, Vijayan served as CPM state committee secretary from 1998 to 2015. He is the longest serving state secretary and is known to be a grassroots leader. He has been elected to the state legislative assembly four times.

Vijayan became the minister for electricity and cooperation in 1996. Currently, he is a member of the central committee and the politburo of the party. He won the assembly election from Dharmadom in Kannur district with a margin of 36,905 votes.

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