THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: “Mr Mani, a time will come when all biblical prophesies will come true. I can’t even begin to imagine Mani burning in hell’s unending fire with immortal worms for mouthing such lies,” V S Achuthanandan wound up his speech, before staging a walkout from the state assembly.
It was a quaint Tuesday morning on March 11, 2015. The assembly was witness to a historic verbal dual between two veterans of — then Leader of Opposition VS and finance minister K M Mani. VS was in his element. As legislators waited with bated breath, he ripped apart the ruling UDF with sermons dipped deep in sarcasm. He went on to even quote from the Gospel of Matthew, resulting in Mani finally losing his cool and terming VS the inevitable ‘AntiChrist’.
That is VS Achuthanandan - the biggest crowd-puller CPM had in nearly two decades. He had always been the common man’s voice who struck the right chord with the public, made a political point and frenzied masses clinging on to every word of his.
India’s oldest living Communist leader turns 99 on Thursday. VS, who had once quoted from a celebrated Malayalam poem to say that gray hair does not necessarily imply ageing or having black hair does not always denote youthfulness, is now officially on the cusp of a centenary. A founder member of the CPM, the veteran has been keeping away from active politics for some time, owing to age-related health issues.
In fact, it was just weeks before the assembly episode that VS was publicly cut to size by the CPM and VS staging a walkout from the state conference at Alappuzha.
Comrade who never tires
However, when the party wanted VS to lead its fight against Mani over the bar bribery scam, he was back to lead from the front. For VS, his convictions went a long way in taking decisions, at times opposing the party. Several times it cost him dearly. He was someone whom the common man saw as a comrade who never tires.
It was on October 18, 2019, just two days before he turned 96 that VS made his last public appearance, seeking votes for the CPM candidate at the Vattiyorkavu bypoll. In his short three-and-a-half-minute speech at a campaign rally, he managed to touch upon almost all topics.
It was a neurological stroke that he suffered just six days after that compelled him to take rest. But even a casual mention of his name continues to evoke genuine affection among the masses.