Former Chief Minister of Kerala and veteran communist leader V S Achuthanandan turned 100 years old on Friday, October 20. Velikakathu Sankaran Achuthanandan, who is popularly known as ‘VS’ had been a crowd puller for the CPI(M).
Even in his 90s, he had campaigned extensively across the state for his party and candidates.
Due to his ill health, the former chief minister of Kerala will celebrate his birthday with his close family at his residence in Thiruvananthapuram.
VS has always been popular with the people of Kerala and not just within the party. A great orator, who was renowned for his typical ‘singing style’ speech, VS was received with great love and affection from people everywhere he went. His supporters used to raise revolutionary slogans such as ‘VS is our eye and heart”.
The veteran communist leader’s life was full of struggles. He lost his mother at the young age of four and his father when he was 11 years old.
He worked as a tailor and later in the coir factory to earn a livelihood. VS began his political career at a very young age by organising the farmers, especially in the Kuttanad area of Alappuzha district. He started out as a trade unionist followed by CPI(M) party secretary and later became the chief minister of Kerala.
VS became the chief minister of Kerala in 2006 at the age of 83.
The CPI(M) leader was also subjected to severe police torture. He was one among the 32 members who walked out of the CPI council in 1964 and formed the CPI(M). He was known as a crusader of land rights, and farmers’ rights and an icon of anti-corruption.
CPI(M) politburo member, A Vijayaraghavan called VS a “stalwart of the working class in Kerala” and said, “VS was a stalwart of the working class in Kerala. His biggest contribution was the way in which he organised the labourers of Kerala. Especially the agricultural labourers in the Kuttanad area. He concentrated there, worked among them. He was a tailor by profession and later worked in the coir factory.”
Excise and LSGD Minister MB Rajesh recalled that he got to know VS personally in 2000 when he was the SFI state secretary and he was the opposition leader.
Rajesh said, “In 2000, I Had undergone an indefinite hunger strike in SN College in Kollam. VS came to the pandal and visited me. It was the seventh day of the hunger strike. He enquired about my health and gave me tips, advising me to drink salt water. His visit itself had instilled in us a lot of confidence and strength and boosted our morale. In 2001, when he contested from Malampuzha his opponent was then KSU state president and I had worked along with him during that campaign. I had actually taken out a PadaYatra through the assembly constituency during that time.”
Rajesh added that VS was very strict and disciplined and said, “His discipline is remarkable. I saw during the campaign days how dedicated he was, he didn’t take salt, chilli or sugar and never deviated from his diet.”
Rajesh said that VS was seen as a strict party secretary but once he became the opposition leader at the age of 78, his transformation into a mass leader was amazing and unbelievable. This just shows that whatever role was given to him, he could perform well.
CPI(M) MP AA Rahim said that VS’ biggest strength was his dedication.
“VS started his political life along with the workers and the workers’ movement. For the next generation like us, VS is a textbook, a legend. We consider ourselves lucky to be working during his time.”
VS’ transformation into a mass leader began when he became the opposition leader for the first time. He had taken up several issues including land encroachment and farmers’ woes.
Achuthanandan directly interacted with people on the field to understand their issues. While he was 80, his trek to Mathikettan Hills on the allegations of encroachment is etched on the minds of the people. He was known as a pro-people and anti-corruption leader.
VS has had several run-ins with his party. He was publicly censored and even demoted from the politburo but he continued his fights.
Dr J Prabhash, former HOD, of Political Science at Kerala University and a political analyst said, “Achuthanandan had the rigidity of a communist, but he was also an epitome of the positive side of communism. As a chief minister, he tried to bring about changes. He was a corruption-free man. You can agree or disagree with him on his stand, how he handled things, but you cannot question his credibility as a corruptionless leader.”
Dr Prabhash added that VS studies the issues in detail. “He learns about it. He goes through all the nitty-gritty and only after that he will form an opinion but once he is convinced and he forms an opinion, he will go all out and fight for that. He will not back out from the fight. If his health was fine, he would have been a severe internal critic in the party,” Prabhash added.