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Kerala's new icon: Brand Achuthanandan

Who is Kerala's youth icon these days?

"V S Achuthanandan," come the answer from writer and poet Kamala Das alias Surraiyya alias Madhavi Kutty.

"I admire him. Achuthanandan is one of the rare and last political leaders in Kerala who knows the cultural and social moorings of the state," she says.

And she goes on. "Everyone says he does not speak English. Does any ruling leader in China know English to rule that country? If Achuthanandan needs an English translator when he is the chief minister, I am ready to be his translator," she says.

All these years, leaders within his Communist Party of India-Marxist and other political parties have derided Achuthanandan as a traditionalist who is against development and who does not understand Kerala's growth imperative.

Many agree he has neither the intellect of E M S Namboodiripad nor the charisma of A K Gopalan nor the charm of E K Nayanar, the late towering Marxists in Kerala. Unlike them, VS, as Achuthanandan is popularly called, did not hail from upper caste and feudal families. Hailing from the so-called backward Ezhava (toddytapper) community, he was never considered chief ministerial material.

That discrimination against him, and inner politics played out smartly by his rival in the party -- CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan -- ensured that VS did not even get a seat to contest the 2006 poll.

His supporters led street marches across Kerala that forced the CPI-M Politburo to reverse the decision and let VS contest.

That was the beginning of the emergence of Brand Achuthanandan.

The outsider then fought his way to victory, and the Left Democratic Front to a massive majority.

It has been a dogged fight all these years. And most people in Kerala now agree VS deserves the chief minister's chair.

Text: George Iype | Photograph: Rajesh Prasad

Also See: Kerala: Where change is static

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