Saji Cheriyan: Pinarayi's closest ally, once a follower of Achuthanandan

Alappuzha: When Governor Arif Mohammed Khan accepted Kerala Chief Minister's recommendation to bring back Saji Cheriyan into the state cabinet, it was not only a triumph for Chengannur MLA but also a major political win for CPM in the state. Cheriyan, the face of the party from Alappuzha, is the strongest ally of CM Pinarayi Vijayan. Therefore, bringing him to the state cabinet is more important to Vijayan than ever before, with Vijayan's closest ally, EP Jayarajan, facing various allegations within the party itself.

Despite facing the public outcry and opposition parties calling to disqualify Cheriyan as MLA, CPM stuck by its stand to protect the leader instead of letting him run for his "slip of the tongue." His resignation from the cabinet and the subsequent return to the top brass of the government is nothing short of a surprise.

For CPM, bringing Cheriyan to the helm of government is necessary ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

In Alappuzha, Saji Cheriyan became the face of the party in place of former ministers G Sudhakaran and Thomas Issac. Further, CPM has seven MLAs from the district and fared well in local body elections. Further, CPM's sole MP from the state is from Alappuzha. As a result, keeping Cheriyan aside was not a view entertained by the party leadership in the district.

Interestingly, Cheriyan used to be an ardent follower of VS Achuthanandan.

During the years of turmoil in CPM over VS and Pinarayi factions, Cheriyan even suffered blows from the party itself for holding a meeting of those following the former CPM Chief Minister.

However, he shifted the alliance to Pinarayi Camp in 2004 following the CPM Malappuram Conference. He came to the limelight in the party for his intervention when factionalism was at its peak in CPM Kanjikkuzhi Area Committee.

Further, his role in Kanjikuzhi LC and subsequent changes in the party helped CPM gain major electoral victories in local body elections in the region. In the following years, Cheriyan grew in stature and was eventually elected as the district secretary. He was elected to Kerala Assembly from the Chengannur constituency by-election held on 28 May 2018, necessitated by the demise of K. K. Ramachandran Nair. He won with a margin of 20,956 votes, the best winning margin for an LDF candidate from Chengannur.

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