Veteran parliamentarian Era Sezhiyan, one of the senior leaders of the Dravidian movement and a keen observer of Indian politics for over seven decades, died at Vellore on Tuesday morning due to age-related ailments. He turned 94 only recently.
A close associate of former Chief Minister CN Annadurai, he had worked with stalwarts like Jayaprakash Narayan, Acharya Kripalani and Madhu Limaye. He was the younger brother of former minister VR Nedunchezhiyan.
Born on April 28, 1923 at Thirukkannapuram in Nagapattinam district, Sezhiyan was a gold medallist in 1939 SSLC and topped the 1944 B.Sc Hons. (Mathematics) from Annamalai University. He had written about the ancient culture and classical languages of Dravidians in ‘Dravida Nadu’, edited by Annadurai and ‘Manram’ of Nedunchezhiyan. He was founder secretary, Dravidian Students Federation during 1943-44. Sezhiyan was imprisoned for political activities in 1948, 1958, 1962 and 1965.
Annadurai fielded Sezhiyan in the 1962 Lok Sabha election from Perambalur, from where he won. In the national capital, he soon distinguished himself as an authority of parliamentary procedures and constitutional conventions.
During his 22-year long stint in both Houses of Parliament, Sezhiyan’s subtle objections often embarrassed the Treasury benches and scuttled several demands and budgets. Jayaprakash Narayan regarded Sezhiyan as the finest Parliamentarian of the times and included him in the National Coordination Committee, the platform of Jan Morcha, along with senior leaders in the opposition against Emergency during 1975-77. Evading arrest warrant of Delhi Police, Sezhiyan became the focal point of the Opposition. Jayaprakash Narayan nominated him as a Convener of National Committee for Review of the Constitution and of People’s Union for Civil Liberties. Sezhiyan was defeated in the 1977 Lok Sabha election.
Later, several national leaders, including the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai and External Affairs Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanted him to enter Parliament again through Rajya Sabha by getting elected from one of the northern States where the Janata Party was strong. But, Sezhiyan declined.
However, in 1978, at the request of Morarji Desai, the then Chief Minister MG Ramachandran supported Sezhiyan in becoming a member of Rajya Sabha from Tamil Nadu. He was the leader of the Janata Party for some time. In 2001, Sezhiyan retired from active politics, but continued to write articles in leading publications. Later, he joined VIT University, Vellore, as an honorary professor and continued as an academician till the end.