A socialist who was a leftist at heart

By Kodiyeri Balakrishnan

4 min read
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Kodiyeri Balakrishnan remembers MP Veerendra Kumar

MP Veerendra Kumar was a socialist who had great clarity on his political stance and a visionary who could predict things for the future and also someone who was a leftist at heart. Veerendra Kumar grew up at a time during India’s independence struggle against the colonial rule. Hence his political life and his opinions were shaped by the freedom fighters, including the communist leaders, rather than the luxurious life that he was born into.

He maintained a close relationship with AK Gopalan and EMS Namboodiripad. These relationships helped him to uphold the politics of the working class people throughout his life.

Veerendra Kumar gifted us with a friendship in which he shared his likes and dislikes and a interaction style which imparted political awareness. I had listened to his political speeches even when I was a school student. I was attracted to him as political leader by his deep voice, clear words and strong stance. He was socialist leader then. Panoor, which is near Kodiyeri, was a place with a strong socialist influence. I noticed the first political speech and style here.

I got to know about his inclusive style friendship through our journeys together. When I was the state secretary of SFI, he was a leader of LDF. Back then the meetings of LDF and SFI were organized in the Maruthi hotel in Ernakulam. We used to meet there occasionally. Veerendra Kumar used to return to Kozhikode from Ernakulam in his car. Many times, we were together in those journeys.

He was a leader who always had a lot to say. His words used to make us laugh and think. He opened up even about his personal life, which included hid joys and sorrows. He used to make his listeners understand things through his interaction style, especially when talking about politics. We were able to understand the strong stance of a political leader who fought against globalization back then itself. It was these journeys together that made us closer to one another.

Memories from the jail

We were both inmates in the same block of Kannur central jail during the emergency period. Veerendra Kumar was a big leader then. But one thing about jail life is that there are no differences between people. Jail authorities gave him the consideration of being an important leader. Inmates were not allowed to see their relatives during this period. Prior permission from the Home Secretary was requied for this.

His wife and other relatives visited him in the jail at least once a month. It was like a celebration in the jail when they came as they would usually bring some things with them. Veerendra Kumar would distribute it among the inmates. He spent most of his time reading and writing in the jail. And he would just interact with the inmates during the rest of his time. He did not stay away from others claiming to be a big leader. Pinarayi Vijayan, Imbichi Bava, MV Raghavan were present in the jail at that time. He had ability to attract anyone with his talking style. His inclusive attitude and informative interaction made our bond tighter.

Janata party and EMS’s letter

Janata party was formed after all those leaders who opposed emergency were jailed. Jayaprakash Narayanan, Morarji Desai, AB Vajpayee were all in jail and their discussions in the jail led to the formation of Janata party. Jana Sangh and Socialist party marged into Janata party which was led by Jayaprakash Narayanan. Thus, Veerendra Kumar also became part of Janata party.

CPM General Secretary EMS Namboodirippad, then CPM General Secretary, wrote to George Fernandes secretly, pointing out the dangers in the merger which included RSS as well. Veerendra Kumar was also well aware of this danger. In private discussions, he expressed RSS might exert their influence if they part from the party. But as part of the party’s decision, he had to be part of Janata party.

A friend in the opposition

The political relationship with Veerendra Kumar was sometimes close and distant at other times. Veerendra Kumar, who contributed a lot to the propagation of left ideology, sometimes distanced himself from the left front. He became part of UDF in the 1980 assembly election, as part of Janata party. But soon the socialists in Janata party joined LDF. This alliance went on for a long time. Veerendra Kumar is the only person to become the only non- CPM LDF convenor in the state. Nobody else has received such an opportunity. However, he unexpectedly left LDF during 2014 Lok Sabha election. However, he continued in UDF only till 2016.

Veerendra Kumar was part of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) then. But once Nitish Kumar joined BJP, he left the party. And he even resigned the MP post that he gained while he was with UDF. Not many people would be willing to do such an act. Due to his ideology, he rejected the opportunity to be an MP for six years.

Although there were accusations that he resigned the MP post to join LDF, the reality is that he did so without consulting any of the leaders from LDF. It was only later that he decided to ally with LDF. Later LDF decided to hand him a seat in the Rajya Sabha due to his brave stance, although his party did not even have a single member in the assembly.

He always maintained a decent attitude and healthy personal relationship even when there were differences with the CPM. He did not try to break the friendship during these stages and our differences stayed away from our interactions. Veerendra Kumar’s life cannot be limited to that of a politician alone.

He was able to gain a notable position as a writer, orator and parliamentarian. He made many interventions after taking up the leadership of Mathrubhumi. He was able to coordinate and organize media persons due to his organizational abilities. He was an extraordinary personality. We can never undermine his greatness

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