Iconic Kerala Marxist leader Velikkakath Sankaran Achuthanandan, VS to all, turns 96 on Sunday, October 20. A true Communist, even at this age, VS continues his tireless fight for the common man. With by-elections in Kerala on Monday, the veteran comrade was seen campaigning for the Left candidates even on Friday.
Addressing a campaign rally for CPM’s Vattiyoorkavu candidate VK Prasanth at Kuravankonam on Friday, VS yet again proved himself to be the biggest crowd-puller in Kerala politics in recent times. Unleashing a scathing attack on the Congress-led UDF and the BJP, VS exhorted all those gathered to vote in favour of the Left. In a short three-and-a-half-minute speech, he managed to touch upon almost all topics currently hogging the state political limelight.
The frenzied masses who kept on clicking his pix, hung on to each and every word that he uttered, testifying to the massive popularity that he enjoys, even at such an advanced age.
A founder leader of CPM, VS Achuthanandan, is the oldest living Communist in India. He was among the 32 leaders who walked out of the historical CPI national council meet in 1964 to form the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
VS who began his political career as a trade unionist has been at the forefront of land struggles and was also part of the now-iconic Punnapra-Wayalar struggle.
A former chief minister, VS continues to be CPM’s most popular leader in the state, evoking genuine affection among the masses, right down to the grassroots level.
In a way, VS could undoubtedly be termed as a political Houdini of sorts. In January 2017, he once again proved his age-defying skills, when he emerged unscathed at the 10th disciplinary action initiated against him by the party. With VS stubbornly sticking to his guns even during the disciplinary action, it was actually a face-saver for the CPM leadership to let VS emerge unscathed.
Maintaining his own stance even at the cost of opposing the party, VS has always had the image of a leader of the masses. The Alappuzha strongman has always had to bear the brunt of scores of disciplinary actions by the very party he had helped form. Public censuring and demotion from the Politburo were just a few of the punitive actions that the nonagenarian has had to face in the course of his long political career as an uncompromising Communist.
It was during the Indo-China war in 1964 that VS was first subjected to party disciplinary action. He was demoted from the CC. Later, he was warned in 1998 and suspended from the Politburo for factionalism in 2007. Though he was taken back keeping in mind his mass-appeal, VS had to leave the Politburo again in 2009. This was followed by censuring by the Central Committee for his visit to Koodamkulam.
But what could be termed as the most drastic of the series of disciplinary actions initiated against him was the party resolution terming him a ‘comrade with an anti-party mindset’ on the eve of the 2015 Alappuzha conference. That such an open declaration was made in front of the media by none other than his bete-nôire Pinarayi Vijayan only made it further clear to one and all just how much the veteran was being isolated within the party itself.
Currently Chairman of the Kerala Administrative Reforms Commission, VS now makes only occasional appearances in the state capital’s trending political space.
Given his ‘rebellious’ reputation, even such occasional sightings continue to be a potential nightmare for VS critics not only in the opposition but also within the Left, for fear of just which aspect of governance he would target, the next time he takes the stage!