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Oommen Chandy: He crafted Congress win in Kerala

Last updated on: May 13, 2011 18:41 IST

A skillful organiser and shrewd strategist



A skillful organiser and shrewd strategist with the man-next-door image, 67-year-old Oommen Chandy has been a key player in the Congress in Kerala for over four decades.

Kerala election: Major WINNERS and LOSERS 

Chandy, who is moved to the central spot of the United Democratic Front left vacant by late K Karunakaran and A K Antony when he was chosen as chief minister for an interim term in 2004-06. He led the coalition as the opposition leader in the last five years after the defeat in 2006, enjoying the confidence of all its components.

Coverage: Assembly Elections 2011 

The surprise entry of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Cehennithala as a contestant in the assembly polls and abrupt figuring of his name in connection with decades old palmolein case had put a question mark over his fate.

But as the campaign progressed, senior party leaders sent clear signals that Chandy's leadership is non-negotiable this time round.

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Mass leader who never lost since 1970

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The lone Congress leader in the state who has been unfailingly elected to the state assembly from his home turf -- Puthupally in Kottayam -- since 1970, Chandy is a true mass leader who always choose to be in the midst of the people and party workers.

Since the 1970s, he has been a frontline soldier of the anti-Karunakaran axis in the Congress in Kerala and worked hard to build the party a mass political force side-by-side his seniors A K Antony and Vayalar Ravi, drawing inspirations from populist policies initiated by late premier Indira Gandhi after 1969 split in the Congress.

It was this upsurge of the Congress in 1970s that made the party a mighty force in Kerala capable of effectively taking on the cadre-based Communist Party of India-Marxist and the UDF coalition a formidable alternative that returned to power every five years.

Born on October 31, 1943 to Karottu Vallakkalil-Ko Chandy and Baby, Chandy displayed leadership skills since his school days as a participant of the children' forum Balajana Sakhyam floated by leading newspaper house Malayala Manorama.

He ventured into campus politics as an activist of the Congress' student wing KSU during his high school days. Later, he became its state president and sailed into the Youth Congress and the KPCC leadership, choosing whole time political career though he is a law graduate.

Despite being a major player and serving as minister in several UDF governments, Chandy had to wait till 2004 to emerge as chief minister following the resignation of A K Antony owning moral responsibility for the combine's near-washout in 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

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When Chandy saved AK Antony's ministry

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Chandy is one of the few Congress leaders in Kerala who never aspired for any post at the Centre, in party or in the cabinet. Similarly, he has never contested the Lok Sabha polls or sought the Rajya Sabha berth, always preferring to be in Kerala.

He had held key portfolios, including finance, in various UDF ministries since 1980s.

In the faction-ridden Congress in Kerala, Chandy had to surmount many challenges to consolidate his position.

His mass appeal and political consistency helped him to bounce back to the centre stage after being eclipsed for a while by Karunakaran's son K Muraleedharan who managed to become KPCC president in 2001 with the support of his son.

Chandy's deft moves saved the AK Antony ministry of 2001-04 whenever it ran into troubles created by the Karunakaran faction.

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Chandy's doors are open to people any time

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When Antony quit as Chief Minister, Chandy was unanimously elected as CLP leader as other contenders were took weak to pose a credible challenge to him.

Chandy was elected to the Kerala assembly 12 times in row from Puthuppally, a sprawling rural segment in Kottayam district. His affection for his constituents is so deep that he would never miss a chance to be in Puthupally despite his hectic schedule.

The political lore in Kerala has it that Chandy might knock at the doors of any house in Puthupally at anytime without prior intimation.

He even named his house in state capital as Puthupally, whose doors are open to people any time. Chandy's wife Mariamma Oommen is a bank officer and the couple has two daughters and a son.

Image: With wife Mariamma Oommen and grandchildren

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