COIMBATORE: Veteran leader and CPI’s former State secretary R Nallakannu (91) is one of four nonagenarians still involved in active politics in Tamil Nadu, the other three being DMK president M Karunanidhi, its general secretary K Anbazhagan and CPM’s N Sankaraiah. Known for his simplicity, Nallakannu has been an inspiration for many Communists at the grassroots level.
Born on December 26, 1925 at Thiruvaikundam village in Thoothukudi, he was a revolutionary from a young age. He joined the communist movement at the age of 15, and had an inter-caste marriage.
He has received several awards including the Ambedkar award from the Tamil Nadu Government, and Gandhi award from the Gandhi Welfare Forum. He is the only leader who held the post of the party’s State secretary for a continuous 12 years from 1992-2004.
While a majority of the political leaders from South had a moustache, Nallakannu did not, as it was burnt by a policemen when he was arrested in 1948, when the party was banned in India.
He has seen many victories and defeats in his over eight decades of politics.
Speaking to Express about the present political scenario and his prediction of how it would evolve in the future, he said, “When we joined the Communist party, we were choked by the British and soon after the independence, the ruling party banned our party, as we differed with their economic policy.
“Even now the CPI is strong in its principles; I do not find any change in the party’s principles. But the activists’ vibrance may have been hit as people are now suppressed by capitalism,” he said.
Speaking of the future leaders, he said, “We have decided to give more opportunity to the youngsters. So, we seniors have decided not to contest in the election and support the youngsters of the future generation.”
Recently a demand was mooted by political activists in the State to make Nallakannu the Chief Ministerial candidate in the 2016 Tamil Nadu State Assembly Election. But, the party was not in favour of individual projection, and Nallakannu himself did not show interest in it.
“I’m 91 years old. Do you think I will be able to fight for the people with this voice?” he asked.
“The Communist party has its own tradition and will not lose it at any cost by projecting people individually or by making false promises,” he said.
Speaking of the future of the party, he said, “In recent years, the party has gained considerable support from students and youngsters. We will make them the future of the Communist party and build them according to our ideology.”
As people in the State are expecting a change, he said, “We are here to bring the change by following our principles.”
Asked about the tie-up of Left parties with Congress in West Bengal, he said, “Although it may look awkward, the decision was taken according to the political strategy for the State, and it is not a new thing. But both Congress and BJP are our common opponents as per our policy,” he explained. “The party’s principle will not change in the future too. But the political strategy of the party cannot be determined now as it depends on the situation,” he concluded.
Radical even as a youngster
R Nallakannu joined the Communist Party of India at age 15 and went on to have an inter-caste marriage, something that is taboo in polarised Tamil Nadu even today, as witnessed in the recent killings of Dalits for marrying caste Hindus
Speaking of the challenges faced by the party over the years, Nallakannu says initially it was British oppression, and after independence, it was the ruling Congress — which banned them — and now it is capitalism that is suppressing people