The Political Journey of VS Achuthanandan: From Grassroots Activist to Political Powerhouse

V S Achuthanandan, better known by his initials ‘V. S.’, is an Indian veteran communist politician and freedom fighter who also served as Kerala’s 11th Chief Minister from 2006 to 2011. V S is the only Keralite, senior most surviving founder-leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)]. He is revered as a person who has dedicated his life to combating imperialism, despotism, and monarchy and is the face of the land struggle in Kerala. Being the former Chief Minister and the former Leader of Opposition, Achuthanandan has been involved in legislative politics and has made a substantial impact.

At age 15, V S, like many other early Communist leaders, started his political career with the Congress Socialist Party, the socialist branch of the Indian National Congress (INC). After which in 1940, his socialist beliefs and compassion for the working people compelled him to join the Communist movement. He dedicated his adolescence and early adult years to coordinating the strikes of Kuttanad’s agricultural laborers and coir workers, located in the paddy area of central Kerala. He played an explicit role in staging Communist workers’ Punnapra-Vayalar rebellion against the Travancore state’s then-Diwan. From Alappuzha District Secretary to State Committee Member and, in 1957, State Secretariat Member, VS progressively worked up the ranks of the CPI.

In 1964, thirty-two party leaders, including VS, quit the CPI to form the CPI(M). The CPI(M) is highly revered as the revolutionary front group of India’s working class. The major reason for the CPI split is accounted towards factional cooperation tendency towards the Indian National Congress Government among members of the then CPI1.  After breaking away from the Communist Party of India in 1964, the CPI(M) party was established and quickly rose to prominence.

Decades apart, people of Kerala honored VS as its Chief Minister from 2006 to 2011. He is the oldest person to assume office at the age of 82 with a strong determination and never ending sympathy for the vulnerable section of the society. The construction of the container transshipment facility at Vallarpadam, the growth of TechnoPark in Trivandrum, and the IT park in Kozhikode, the state’s IT and infrastructure industries saw significant advancements throughout the five years. During his term, Kerala experienced a significant increase in IT exports. Remarkably, his demolition effort in Munnar to reclaim acres of land that had been allegedly unlawfully occupied met with criticism from his own party. During his office term, he also started a demolition drive to restore the long-lost shoulder of the road on Kochi M. G. Road. The refurbishment of the Malampuzha Tourist Destination in Kerala and the creation of this well-linked backwater tourist destination in Kerala, AshtaMudi Tourism Circuit, all are part of the checklist during his leadership. His role in dismantling the state’s unlawful lottery syndicate is praiseworthy. He also oversaw the implementation of several welfare programs that strengthened the Left’s support among the impoverished rural populace. His anti-piracy campaign to stop the piracy of motion pictures also gained him the goodwill of people from diverse arenas. Nevertheless, VS also served as the Leader of the Opposition from 1991-1996, 2001-2006, and 2011-2016. After beginning his career as a trade unionist, from 1980 until 1992, he served as the CPI (M) Kerala State Secretary. From 1967 to 2016, he has been elected to the Kerala Legislative Assembly multiple times. The period of 2016 to 2021, saw VS serve in an honorary capacity as 4th chairman of the State Administrative Reforms Commission.

Achuthanandan is often opined as a staunch communist who rarely deviates from his main convictions. And thus the political landscape of the CPI(M) would be characterized by the public as the VS vs. Vijayan feud, which intertwined personal hostility with intellectual divergences. In Kerala politics, the rivalry between the two leaders is well-known and has generated a lot of controversy over the years. V.S Achuthanandan, an advocate of social justice, is well-known for his resolute opposition against corruption. Along with being a strong opponent of massive industrial projects that endanger the environment, he is also well-known for his unwavering stance on environmental concerns. Vijayan, on the other hand, is viewed as a more practical leader who is prepared to collaborate with the private sector to meet economic and infrastructural development goals. He is recognized for having significantly improved the state’s infrastructure and for productively channeling international investment. Both of these men have contributed greatly to the state of Kerala, despite their differences they are united by their dedication to Marxist ideals and have collaborated to further the interests of Kerala’s working class.

On October 20, 2022, V S turned 100 years old. Since enduring a stroke four years ago, he has abstained from active political participation. As the oldest member of the Kerala Legislative Assembly, VS Achuthanandan defines decades of Left politics in the state. The socio-political history of Kerala is intricately linked to his eight decades of political career. Two personas, as a crowd-puller and a meticulous Communist who never faltered the ideals of factual communism, are the pure extensions to the legacy of V S. Even in his late 90s, he remained an engaged participant in party events and campaigns. Throughout his entire life, he has been a biased activist towards the toiling masses and a respected leader in the hearts of people of Kerala.

  1. [i] Roychowdhury, A. (2022, January 15). How Indo-China border dispute once split the Communist Party of India. The Indian Express. ↩︎

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