Former Kerala CM, Congress veteran Oommen Chandy passes away at 79

A two-time chief minister, Chandy was the longest-serving MLA in the Kerala legislative assembly.
Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.(Express Photo by Vincent Pulickal)
Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.(Express Photo by Vincent Pulickal)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Veteran Congress leader and former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has passed away. Chandy, 79, who was undergoing cancer treatment at a Bengaluru hospital for some time, breathed his last at around 4.25 am. The state government has declared holiday on Tuesday and two days of official mourning.

His son Chandy Oommen announced the death of his father through a Facebook post. "Appa has passed away," he wrote on his page. As per initial reports, the body will be brought to the state by Helicopter.  The public will be able to pay homage to the departed leader at the state capital. The funeral will be
held at Puthuppally, his native place.

A two-time chief minister, Chandy was the longest-serving MLA in the Kerala legislative assembly. Known as the man of masses and a champion of developmental initiatives, Oommen Chandy shared close relations with leaders irrespective of political affiliations.

He has represented the Puthuppally constituency in the assembly for more than five decades. He was elected from here a record 12 times, from 1970 to 2021. He has served as the chief minister for seven years. Chandy has also served as minister holding a slew of different portfolios including Home, finance and labour. He has also served as the Leader of Opposition in the assembly. Currently, he’s the AICC general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh and a member of the Congress Working Committee.

Oommen Chandy is survived by wife Mariamma (former staff, Canara Bank), children Mariam Oommen, Chandy Oommen and Achu Oommen.

Born to Puthuppally Karott Vallakkalil KO Chandy and Baby Chandy at Kumarakam on October 31, 1943 he completed his studies at Puthuppally MD School, St George Highschool, CMS College Kottayam, SB College Changanassery and Law College Ernakulam. He began his political career through the Kerala Students Union, became its state president in 1967. In 1969, he became the Youth Congress state president.

At the age of 27, he first got elected to the state legislative assembly in 1970, by defeating CPM's sitting MLA EM George. In 1977, he became the home minister under K Karunakaran. Later on, he served as a minister in 1982 and 1991. He was also the UDF convener from 2001 to 2004. In 2004 when incumbent chief minister AK Antony stepped down, Chandy became chief minister for the first time. Later he served as Leader of Opposition during 2006-11. He became the CM for the second term in 2011 and served till 2016.

A true mass leader, Chandy was a politician accessible to everyone. During his second term as chief minister, Chandy introduced the 'Mass Contact Programme' to directly listen to people's woes and address the same. A politician known for his tactics and strategies, Chandy played a crucial role in the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) for almost two decades.  Known as the leader of the
powerful A group in state Congress, he was a leader who led the party in times of crises. Despite many controversies during his political life, Chandy’s mass appeal remained intact.

He played an important role in a slew of developmental projects in the state including the Kochi Metro, Kannur airport, Vallarpadom international container transhipment terminal and the under-construction Vizhinjam International Seaport project.

Condoling death, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan termed Oommen Chandy’s passing away the end of an era in Kerala politics. Veteran leader and former defence minister AK Antony termed it a loss for the people of the state. “Chandy has been the champion of state’s development. His demise is a loss to the people of Kerala, development of the state. Personally, I have lost my closest friend in political and personal life,” said Antony.

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