THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A Marxist to the core and one of the most popular faces of the CPI(M) in the country, V S Achuthanandan, who turned 100 on Friday, has been a tireless fighter against injustice and inequality. Achuthanandan’s journey, starting as a helper in a tailoring shop, transformed into a string of relentless battles, both within and outside his party, championing people’s causes until he rose to the position of chief minister in the state.
His image as a non-corrupt leader and his active intervention in public issues, ranging from environmental causes to women’s rights, have made him one of the most popular Marxist leaders of the time.
His crusade against land and real estate mafia during his tenure as opposition leader three times had made him acceptable across all strata of society.
Known as VS among his supporters and admirers, Achuthanandan had to often confront not only his political opponents but also, on many occasions, rivals within his party. Notable among them being politburo member and present chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The inner-party rivalry had even resulted in an unexpected political debacle in the 1996 assembly elections.
Despite the fact that the LDF had won, Achuthanandan was defeated in his stronghold Mararikkulam constituency later in the year, allegedly due to machinations by his foes in the party.
Though political observers had declared that the era of Achuthanandan was over in the CPI(M) and state politics with the 1996 defeat, he had fought his way back into the party and emerged as a stronger and more popular leader.
His mass public support had forced the party to give him tickets in the 2006 and 2011 assembly elections, despite differences among seniors in the party about giving him a chance to contest.
Despite the attempts by his rivals to sideline him within the party, he successfully headed the LDF ministry between 2006 and 2011.
His tenure is remembered for his relentless efforts to tackle corruption, promote transparency, and introduce various welfare schemes for the benefit of the common people.
He earned a reputation for being a leader of integrity, known for his no-nonsense approach to governance.
During the 2016 assembly polls, the CPI(M) had projected Achuthanandan as its face to woo voters.
Despite his advanced age, the veteran had criss-crossed the state with vigour, wooed voters through his typical style of speaking, and sought votes for the LDF.
However, he was denied the chance again, reportedly due to a party resolution that existed against him, alleging that he had a ‘factionalist mindset’, and Vijayan was chosen for the highest post of chief minister.
He was even dropped from the politburo, the higher organisation body of the CPI(M), for speaking against the party’s official line.
Achuthanandan was one of the leaders who came out of the national council of undivided CPI in 1964, which led to the formation of CPI(M).
Rising from a working-class background, his simple lifestyle and peculiar style of speech delivery and gestures have helped him easily connect with commoners, cutting across party lines and age groups.
Velikkakath Sankaran Achuthanadan was born into a poverty-stricken family in Punnapra, Alappuzha, a hotbed of trade unionism in the state, on October 20, 1923.
Owing to poverty, he had to stop his schooling at his primary school level and go to work in a textile shop and later in a coir factory to earn daily bread.
Attracted to communism under the influence of Marxist stalwarts like P Krishna Pillai, Achuthanandan became a trade union worker in 1938 and became a member of the Communist Party in 1940.
He took part in the Punnapra-Vayalar struggles organised by the Communist Party against the feudal landlords and the ‘diwan’ rule in the erstwhile state of Travancore and was imprisoned during the 1940s.
Since then, his life has been inseparably linked with the history of the Communist movement in the state through all its important episodes.
He is one of the few surviving mass Communist leaders in the state after the deaths of veterans like E M Sankaran Namboothiripad, A K Gopalan and E K Nayanar.
Achuthanandan had also served as the state secretary, convenor of the LDF and leader of the opposition during his six-decade-old political life.
The leader was elected to the Kerala Assembly in the years 1967, 1970, 1991, 2001, 2006, and 2011 and served as the leader of the opposition during 1992-1996, 2001-2006, and 2011-2016.
Even after his tenure as Chief Minister, Achuthanandan, at 100 years, remains an influential figure in Kerala politics.

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