Pillai was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1971 from the Mavelikara constituency.
He was a minister for several years in various ministries headed by C Achutha Menon, K Karunakaran, E K Nayanar and A K Antony.
Pillai's over six-decade-long political career saw many ups and downs.
He had to resign from the ministry for his speech in the 1980s in which he had called for agitation on the lines of the militancy in Punjab against the central government for ignoring Kerala's development needs.
He was the first minister in Kerala who was sentenced to jail for corruption.
The Supreme Court had in February 2011 sentenced Pillai and two others to one year imprisonment for allegedly abusing their positions in the award of a contract for the Idamalayar hydroelectric power project during his tenure as power minister from 1982-1985 in the K Karunakaran ministry.
From 2017 onwards, he had been serving as the chairman of the Kerala State Welfare Corporation for Forward Communities, with cabinet rank.
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