Veteran socialist and newspaper doyen MP Veerendra Kumar dies at 84
Newspaper doyen and veteran Janata Dal leader, MP Veerendra Kumar, died on Thursday at a private hospital in Kozhikode in north Kerala, his family said. He was 84.
A socialist leader and former Union minister, Kumar was a Rajya Sabha member as well.
Kumar is survived by his wife, three daughters and son MV Shreyams Kumar, who is the joint managing director of Mathrubhumi group of publications, the second-largest media group in Kerala.
His body will be taken to Wayanad, his native place, for last rites on Friday, his family said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kerala Governor Arif Mohamad Khan, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, former defence minister AK Antony and many others condoled his death.
“Anguished by the passing away of Rajya Sabha MP Shri M.P. Veerendra Kumar Ji. He distinguished himself as an effective legislator and Parliamentarian. He believed in giving voice to the poor and underprivileged. Condolences to his family and well wishers. Om Shanti,” PM Modi tweeted.
A writer, orator, green activist, Kumar remained in the political arena like a colossus for more than six decades.
A disciple of socialist legend Jayaprakash Narayan, he played a key role in floating the Janata Party in the 1970s and later remained with the Janata Dal (Socialist) till his death. He was jailed during the Emergency.
Born in Wayanad district’s Kalpetta in 1936 in a known plantation family, Kumar finished his early education in his hometown and Kozhikode before taking his masters from Vivekananda College in Madras (now Chennai) and an MBA from Cincinnati University in the United States.
After his return, he spent some time in the family business before entering the political arena.
Veerendra Kumar took a membership of the then Socialist Party from Jayaprakash Narayan in 1965 and later became the all-India treasurer of the Samyukta Socialist Party between 1968 and 1970.
During the Emergency, he was jailed for more than a year and his properties confiscated. Later, he played a key role in the formation of the Janata Party.
He became a minister in EK Nayanar’s cabinet in 1987 but he had to resign within 48 hours after his order on a blanket ban on cutting trees in fringe areas of forests whipped up a big controversy.
In 1996, he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Kozhikode and became a minister in the HD Deva Gowda and later IK Gujral governments. He was elected to the Lok Sabha again in 2004.
He was in the Left Democratic Front (LDF) camp for many years but left it in 2009 after he was denied a Parliament seat. In 2015, he again crossed over to the LDF camp and became a member of the Rajya Sabha in 2016.
Though his party suffered many splits and he changed his political affiliations quite often he held on to his socialist ideals till his last.
A writer and orator, Kumar authored many books. His book Hymavatha Boovil (Himalayan Odyssey) won the Sahitya Akademi award. It was later translated into many languages, including English.
He became a director of Mathrubhumi in the late 1970s and the chairperson of the group. He was closely associated with the Indian Newspaper Society and Press Trust of India.
A die-hard opponent of neoliberal and capitalist policies, Kumar fought valiantly for environmental protection till his end.