The distinction of fielding the richest candidate in Kerala was bagged by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), in sharp contrast to its claim to be a proletarian messiah.
The party candidate from Beypore constituency, 75-year-old VKC Mammed Koya, who is the mayor of Kozhikkode Corporation, heads a business empire worth thousands of crores. Koya is the founder of the VKC Group, the largest producer of polyurethane flip-flops in South India.
“I am a born Communist,” said Koya. “My business interests never clashed with my ideology. You can ask the 10,000-odd people working in our firm in Kerala and outside.”
“My Communist ideals really helped me prosper and build an empire that is almost like my family,” he added.
His rags to riches story is inspirational, to say the least. Party workers in Kozhikkode even vouch for how Koya’s Communist ideals helped him scale new heights.
Born in a poor family, Koya’s stopped going to school in Class 7 and took up odd jobs, including selling tea. He was sacked from a matchstick manufacturing company in Kozhikkode for demanding more money after joined the Communist Party.
His political career began in 1975. He became the Nallalam grama panchayat president in 1979 and a legislator in 2001. Thereafter, he put politics on the backburner to focus on his business, but returned when his party called.
“I don’t think owning wealth is a big sin,” he said. “How you help society and people around is more important. I believe in sharing. I never missed my roots and am quite proud of it.”
VKC Footwear Co, which Koya set up in 1985 with the help of his two brothers, had modest beginnings — with Rs 30 lakh investment and 20 employees. His company got its first big break when it started making Hawaii slippers (flip-flops).
Last year, the company’s turnover was Rs 1,500 crore.
“Look, even my products are in tune with my ideology. With low cost and durability, my brand is a big hit among toiling masses,” said Koya.
The second spot after Koya goes to the Left Democratic Front. Nationalist Congress Party legislator Thomas Chandy, who has business interests in Kuwait, owns property worth Rs 500 crore.