The Communist Party of India-Marxist's (CPM) flip-flop on Kerala chief minister VS Achuthanandan's candidature in the upcoming assembly elections has reopened the debate on who will lead the party after the polls.
Depending on whether the party wins or loses, who will be the chief minister or leader of the opposition: Achuthanandan himself, or home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan? The election will take place on April 13. The answer appeared obvious after Achuthananan was denied a ticket to contest while Balakrishnan was chosen to lead the party into the elections. But the central leadership of the CPM, which heads the LDF government in Kerala, later decided to let the CM enter the fray.
Balakrishnan still appears the heavyweight of the two. The 58-year-old will seek re-election from Thalasserry in northern Kannur district as the only politburo member in the fray. He has earlier contested from this seat in 1982, 1987, 2001 and 2006; this time he will take on Congress student leader Rejil Makkuti.
Balakrishnan, who first became a legislator in 1982 and entered the politburo in 2008, is considered close to state CPM secretary and Achuthanandan's rival Pinarayi Vijayan. In fact, it is this relationship that has made him a potential chief minister — after Vijayan, accused in an alleged power scandal, pulled out of the polls and proposed his name to lead the party.
Balakrishnan is a firebrand orator known for his brash style. He is known to flaunt power and is the most heavily guarded minister in Kerala cabinet. But he is also a grassroots leader who known many workers personally — calling them by their names in street corner meetings and inquiring about their families.