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Has Oomen Chandy's time finally arrived?

india Updated: Apr 12, 2011 14:34 IST
Ramesh Babu

The United Democratic Front's chief ministerial candidate, Oommen Chandy (68), and union defence minister AK Antony (70) are friends and colleagues twice over. Their wives - Mariamma Oommen and Elizabeth - too are good friends and erstwhile colleagues from their Canara Bank days.

In fact, the story goes that it was Mariamma who introduced the 40-something avowed bachelor Antony to Elizabeth. Marriage followed, lending cohesion to a relationship that has survived in the hurly-burly world of politics.

Antony, Chandy and union aviation minister Vayalar Ravi form the triumvirate for the Congress in Kerala.

But unlike Antony and Ravi, Chandy has never stepped out of state politics.

For some years Antony was seen as Chandy's mentor in politics. However, Chandy proved that he had emerged from Antony's shadow and succeeded him as chief minister in 2004, and is a natural choice for the office should the Congress-led United Democratic Front come to power.

Though he remained CM for only 16 months from late 2004 to 2006, the state saw many development projects during his short tenure. Taking quick decisions and implementing them unmindful of consequences is his mantra.

A worker of the Kerala Students' Union, he later became its state president. He was elected to the Kerala assembly for the first time in 1970 from the Puthppally constituency in Kottayam district. A leader who has risen through the ranks, Chandy makes sure he knows the names of senior Congress workers whenever he visits their constituencies. And the reputation about him is that whoever comes to him for help is never spurned outright.

Party workers circulate a story, obviously apocryphal, that he once wrote to George W Bush, when he was US president, on behalf of a colleague.

The Left Democratic Front government insinuated that Chandy, as finance minister in 1991, had complicity in the palm oil case, in the course of which PJ Thomas lost the Central Vigilance Commissioner's (CVC) office.

However, the man's unsullied image and simplicity of living were too strong to allow Chandy to be felled by such campaigns.