For the people of Malampuzha in Kerala’s Palakkad district, 93-year-old VS Achuthanandan is their next chief minister.
They urge him with folded hands to not waste his time in the constituency from where he’s won three consecutive times and concentrate on the rest of the state.
But party senior chide enthusiastic supporters chanting “Long live our CM” slogans, aware of the uneasy truce within the party to force the contentious issue of chief ministerial candidate on the backburner.
He needs the support of his aides to climb steps but everyone in the Left Democratic Front wants the crowd puller to campaign in their constituency to defeat the incumbent Congress-led United Democratic Front.
It is a stunning comeback for a man who was dubbed a ‘renegade’ by the party.
He walked out of the state committee meet where his arch foe Pinarayi Vijayan enjoyed brute support. Almost all leaders turned against him and said he was “a factionalist with an anti-party mindset.”
But the sidelining boosted his popularity. Today, no one dares touch him though he flouts party norms. The Congress and BJP have also fielded relative lightweights against him.
Unlike party general secretary Sitaram Yechury who once ridiculed yoga, VS has no qualms in admitting he’s a regular for many years. “For the past 20 years or so I have been practising many asans regularly. Yoga, brisk morning walk and strict diet keep me ticking,” he said.
A crowd emerges from nowhere as he is about to step out of his house, a rented house in posh Chandranagar locality. “Cheering party workers are my spirit. They know difficulties I faced in building up the party in the state,” he says.
When he veers from his written speech, his campaign managers caution him because they need his firepower for yet another meeting. But will this popularity hold after the elections or will factionalism consume his star power? That’s the million dollar question.
“Steeped in corruption, CM Chandy has no right to talk about Malampuzha. It is a strategy to deviate attention from many charges we raised including Saritha, Saritha..,” he says at a rally, referring to the multi-crore solar scam accused Saritha Nair. The scam -- in which Chandy’s aides are embroiled – is a major worry for the incumbent chief minister.