Oommen Chandy: veteran Congressman set to rule Kerala | india | Hindustan Times
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Oommen Chandy: veteran Congressman set to rule Kerala

india Updated: May 13, 2011 18:52 IST

IANS
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A devout Christian who leads a spartan life, Oommen Chandy is the longest serving Congress legislator from Kerala who is all set to rule for a second time.

For one who once fell short of money after a meal at a restaurant in the company of A K Antony, now the defence minister of India, Chandy has come a long way since his foray into student politics in the 1960s.

At 67, the father of three and grandfather of two is widely viewed as the tallest political leader the Congress has in Kerala.

Even before Kerala went to the polls, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that Chandy would get the chief minister's chair if the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) crushed the Marxists.

This will be his second stint as chief minister. He first got the post in 2004 when Antony stepped down after the Congress was routed in the Lok Sabha election.

Chandy -- a graduate in humanities and law -- is the fourth Congress Kerala chief minister after R. Sankar, K. Karunakaran (four times) and Antony (thrice).

Chandy has been elected to the Kerala legislature from Puthupally in Kottayam district uninterrupted since his first election victory in 1970.

The only other legislator who has a better record than Chandy in the assembly is K.M. Mani (Kerala Congress-Mani), who has won every election in the state since 1965.

A UDF ally, Mani may be a key figure in Chandy's cabinet.

As a young legislator, Chandy was in the illustrious company of veterans like E.M.S. Nampoothiripad, Antony, Pinnarayi Vijayan and V.S. Achuthanandan, the outgoing chief minster.

Over the decades, Chandy has held every key position. He has held the ministries of home, labour and finance. He has also been opposition leader in the house. He also been the convenor of the UDF.

Chandy is light heartedly referred to in the Congress as "Queen Bee" because there is always a crowd around him - whatever the time of the day, whatever the occasion or venue.

Chandy himself admits that he feels out of place if he is not surrounded by a crowd, even if they are pestering him for anything and everything.

But Chandy's persona has seen visible changes.

Gone are the days when he was seen in torn shirts. Here again the joke was that the man used to tear his clothes before wearing them!

Unlike most politicians, the man is known for his simplicity and spartan lifestyle.

It is almost certain that he will continue to stay in his own residence in the capital -- where he has lived for a quarter century.

But Chandy's easy accessibility and the way he is said to bend to pressure are seen as his biggest disadvantages.

"When he was the chief minister, even well past midnight there was always a crowd around him. This did not allow officials to function smoothly," said a close associate of Chandy who did not wish to be named.

Raju Abraham, a CPI-M legislator, told IANS that Chandy was a failed chief minister.

"It was just hype. If you look at his contribution, there isn't anything worthwhile. But one thing Chandy needs to be appreciated for is the speed with which he does things," said Abraham.