By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Simply great and greatly simple. These words aptly sum up the character and persona of veteran Communist Party of India (CPI) leader and former minister E Chandrasekharan Nair, who passed away on Wednesday.
Nair, who will be fondly remembered for his impeccable innings twice, as Food Minister in the E K Nayanar ministries in the eighties, had all the ingredients that go into the making of a genuine communist: courage of convictions, commitment to the cause he held dear, a passion for clean politics and an indomitable will. Nair left an indelible imprint on the portfolios he held during an illustrious career spanning three terms.
It may sound like a cliché. But Nair was one of the few leaders whose heart bled for the poor. He was, well and truly, a messiah of the poor and downtrodden. While taking decisions, he always gave top priority to the interests of the poorest of the poor.
An unassuming politician, Nair will be best remembered as the minister who curbed price rise and ensured the availability of essential commodities at affordable prices to the poor. It can be said without fear of contradiction that he was a minister who effectively intervened in the market to prevent prices from going through the roof.
If Kerala’s unique universal rationing system became a model for other states to emulate, the credit goes entirely to Chandrasekharan Nair. The Maveli stores chain and Onam fairs were his enduring contribution, which made available essential commodities at prices far below the open market rates.
The communist stalwart, who had an illustrious stint as MLA and minister for over six decades, also gave a big boost to the tourism industry in the state. He played a key role in making Kerala a hub of ecotourism. The concept of responsible tourism also gained traction thanks to his untiring efforts.
Another area which greatly benefited from Nair’s administrative ability was the cooperative sector. He was a pioneer in the field, who saw to it that the cooperative societies turned into cooperative banks, which have since become the only hope of the weaker sections of society.
Although he was known for his amiable disposition, Nair never lost an opportunity to display firmness when the occasion demanded. He made no bones about his differences with the CPI(M) and the latter’s role in splitting the communist party. Nair believed that the split was perhaps the biggest tragedy that befell not only Kerala but also the country. He was of the firm view that the split dashed the hopes of millions of poor, who had pinned their faith in the ability of the communists to uplift the downtrodden.
To say that Nair’s passing away is an irreparable loss to Kerala and the nation is to state the obvious. He was the best Food Minister Kerala has ever had. And his lasting contributions to firming up Kerala’s public distribution system and relieving the misery of the poorest of the poor should inspire and guide food ministers in other states. His terms as minister were, undoubtedly, a golden era of great governance. Chandrasekharan Nair truly belongs to that rare and fast-dwindling species of genuine politicians, who always stood for the poor. A red salute to the communist non-pareil and politician par excellence. (IPA Service)