His party, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, which leads the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala, seems to have outgrown his charm, but when the outgoing chief minister of Kerala, octogenarian VS Achuthanandan opens his mouth it is enough to send the masses into raptures.
As in 2006, this time too Achuthanandan was denied a ticket in the upcoming assembly polls, only to have the CPM reverse its decision yet again.
This was a major personal victory for the chief minister and a loss of face for his archrival Pinarayi Vijayan, the party's state secretary. The two haven't been seeing eye to eye since 2007, and what is really worrying for the latter is that Achuthanandan gets a rousing welcome in his (Pinaray's) own backyard, northern Kannur.
Achuthanandan is aiming for a hat trick from his seat, Malampuzha in Palakkad district, both industrial belt and tourist destination. "Even if he skips (campaigning) he will have a thumping victory," said A Prabhakaran, the chief minister's poll manager. In 2006, Achuthanandan defeated his Congress rival by more than 20,000 votes.
And what makes him so popular? Some attribute it to the crusader in him. Be it pursuing the 1992 palm oil case that led to the ouster of chief vigilance commissioner PJ Thomas, or reopening the ice cream parlour sex scandal of the mid-1990s involving Muslim League leader P K Kunhalikutty, he left his stamp on a lot of controversial issues. But even an old warhorse like him must have his detractors, and Achuthanandan's critics have accused him of being anti-development. Whether it will treat him with the same respect after the election is the million dollar question.