Kodiyeri Balakrishnan
Known for his no-nonsense attitude, diplomatic skills and decision-making capabilities, Balakrishnan had been a crisis manager for the party during turbulent times.

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan: A man of courage, principles, and a smiling face

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“The pleasant, smiling face of the CPI(M).” That was how the Kerala media always introduced Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

Though the media never spared him if he or his party was caught in a controversy, he never lost his cool. He handled the media with an unusual patience unlike his fellow party leaders in the state.

Kodiyeri’s last press conference was on August 12, only a few days before his exit from the position of state secretary. He looked fatigued in the press conference. His voice was husky and words were often broken.

But his thoughts were uninterrupted. He was crystal clear about his political views as he explained his party’s stand on the Governor-CM tussle. He emphasised that the Governor must discharge his constitutional responsibilities instead of playing into the hands of the BJP.

The veteran CPI(M) leader passed away in a Chennai hospital on Saturday following a battle with cancer and other ailments. He was 68.

Also read: Senior CPM leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan passes away at 70

The rise of Kodiyeri 

Kodiyeri started his active political life from the student movement at Thalassery in Kannur— the CPI(M) bastion in Kerala. He was elevated to the position of the SFI state secretary at a very young age, when he was still an undergraduate student at University College, Thiruvananthapuram. He worked at many levels in the party — in DYFI as well as the local CPI(M) unit.

Kodiyeri, who was the district secretary of the CPI(M) from 1990 to 1995, was absorbed into the state secretariat in 1995. At the 17th party congress in Hyderabad in 2002, Kodiyeri became the party’s central committee member. And, at the 19th party congress in 2008, he was elevated to the Politburo, the highest body of the CPI(M).

Kodiyeri entered the Assembly at a young age, too. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly from Thalassery constituency in 1982. He represented Thalassery in 1987, 2001, 2006, and 2011. He was the home minister of Kerala in the 2006–11 LDF government.

Also read: Kodiyeri Balakrishnan won’t help son Binoy accused of rape

For the people

It was during that period that the idea of Janamaitri Police was introduced. It was an attempt to bring a fundamental change in the relationship between cops and the people. In the Janamaitri or “people-friendly police” project, cops were given the basic constitutional lesson that people are the masters of the country. How far this idea was successful is debatable, but Kodiyeri’s view of policing was well in tune with his ideology that stood for the poor and the weaker sections of society.

It was not only the terminal disease that made the last few years of his life miserable. His son Bineesh Kodiyeri’s arrest and imprisonment in connection with a drugs and money-laundering case threw him into distress and grief. The narcotic/money-laundering charges levelled against Bineesh are yet to be proved. But he was denied bail for almost a year, which took a toll on Kodiyeri, according to sources close to him.

Kodiyeri was man of strategy, too. In the factional fight within the party, he maintained a warm relationship with VS Achuthanandan despite being unquestionably loyal to Pinarayi Vijayan. The CPI(M) in Kerala was eclipsed by factional feud between Vijayan and Achuthanandan for more than a decade since the state conference at Malappuram in 2005. The factionalism came to a halt by LDF’s stunning victory in 2016, which elevated Vijayan to the status of the only power centre within the party.

Also read: Days after son’s arrest, Kodiyeri quits as Kerala CPI(M) chief on health grounds

“A man of immense courage”

The 99-year-old Achuthanandan has completely withdrawn from social life in the past five years. His son Arun Kumar wrote a note on Facebook about the moment he informed his father about Kodiyeri’s demise. “When I told him that comrade Kodiyeri was gone, he did not say a word. I saw tears in his eyes. After a few minutes, he asked me to convey his condolence to the grieving family,” wrote Arun Kumar.

With Kodiyeri’s demise, another grim memory of the Emergency has vanished into history. He was one of the communist leaders to be subjected to brutal torture in custody during the 1975–1977 Emergency. Pinarayi recollected the days of Emergency, in which he was tortured and imprisoned along with Kodiyeri.

“I lost my brother. We started our journey together and we were together throughout our political life. As soon as the emergency was announced, it has he who took the initiative to organise a protest rally in Kannur. We all were arrested and severely tortured, but he tried to take care of me and all other prison mates. He was a man of immense courage. He never let himself down even in the last phase of his life. He could face any critical situation with unusual level of courage and mental strength,” wrote the Chief Minister.

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