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. But even at 87, VS can defy everything, including the dictates of the CPI (M), and he remains suspended from the politburo of his party.
However, these very attributes are the strengths of the outgoing Kerala chief minister as CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front fought the closest elections in state’s history, making anti-incumbancy almost irrelevant, and nearly reversing the trend of no government getting re-elected in last three decades.
At the end, the UDF has managed to edge out LDF, and more importantly, VS Achuthanandan-- 72-- 68-- in the 140-seat assembly polls. And it is also closer than one thinks. Five seats UDF have won are with less than 500-vote margin.
Even his adversaries agree that many issues that dominated the election arena this time had the signature of VS. He fought the corruption case against former minister R Balakrishna Pillai for 20 years, that finally led to his conviction by the Supreme Court. Unlike the any UDF leaders hoped, here was no sympathy for Pillai in his fiefdom of Kottarakara, where CPI(M) candidate won over 20000 votes.
VS's rustic style and mannerism were lapped up by many and he drove home the point that all the corrupt will be put in jail. It also irked many, and often landed him in spots of bother. There are ironies, too. Though most of the five-years in chief minister's chair, he didn't do anything to bring the guilty to be book in many cases as promised in 2006, his rhetoric didn't ring hollow.
The focus of his campaign aimed strengthening Kerala’s moral fabric like acting tough against those who are involved in crimes against women, did have an impact. The VS also acted like a social activist and a green leader and didnt miss opportunities to make sly remarks against his arch-rival and party state secretray Pinarayi Viajyan. Vijayan has a brutal majority in the state unit of the party.
Perhaps Muslim league which won 20 out of 24 seats could resist VS factor. VS had singled out Muslim League leader P K Kunjhalikutty for severe attacks, and he has won with a majority of over 36,000 votes and there was no crack in League fortress.
In 2006, the CPI(M) politburo reversed its decision on him that eventually led to VS becoming the chief minister. In 2011, VS played the key role in defying history and most of the doomsday predictions, and Congress’s late surge against him didn't bring desired results either. The VS had also got his rival faction leaders E P Jayarajan, a close associate of Vijayan, sing praises for him ahead of elections. But this victory of VS is sure to bring more headache to his party than anything else. Trust VS with that.