For many, VS Achuthanandan speaks more like an opposition leader than a chief minister. His instincts are that of a street fighter than a suave administrator.
And even at 87, VS can defy everything, including the dictates of the CPM, and he remains suspended from the politburo of his party.
These very attributes, however, are the strengths of the outgoing Kerala chief minister as the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) fought the closest elections in state’s history, making anti-incumbency almost irrelevant, and nearly reversing the trend of no government getting re-elected in the last three decades.
In the end, the United Democratic Front (UDF) managed to edge out the LDF (72:68), and, more importantly, VS, in the 140-seat assembly polls. But the finish is closer than one may think — five seats the UDF won were with less than 500 votes margins.
Even his adversaries agree that many issues that dominated the election arena this time had the VS signature.
He fought corruption case against former minister R Balakrishna Pillai for 20 years, which finally led to his conviction by the Supreme Court. Unlike what the UDF leaders hoped for, there was no sympathy for Pillai in his fiefdom of Kottarakara, where the CPM candidate won by over 20,000 votes.
Many adopted VS’s rustic style and mannerism and he drove home the point that all the corrupt would be put in jail. And it also irked many and often landed him in a spot.
But, there are ironies, too. Though in his five-year tenure as the chief minister, he didn't do anything to bring the guilty to book as promised in 2006, his rhetoric didn't ring hollow.
VS also didn’t miss opportunities to make sly remarks against his arch-rival and party’s state secretary Pinarayi Viajyan, who has a brutal majority in the party’s state unit.
Perhaps, only the Muslim League, which won 20 out of 24 seats, could resist the VS factor. VS had singled out Muslim League leader PK Kunjhalikutty for severe attacks, but he has won with a margin of over 36,000 votes and there was no crack in the League fortress.
VS had also got his rival faction leader EP Jayarajan, a close associate of Vijayan, to sing praises for him ahead of the assembly elections.
But this victory of VS is sure to bring more headaches to his party than happiness.