Kanam Rajendran: A superstar of labour movement

During his tenure as state general secretary of the AITUC, Kanam paid special attention to unorganised sectors in the state.
Agriculture Minister P Prasad breaks down upon seeing the mortal remains of CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran | A Sanesh
Agriculture Minister P Prasad breaks down upon seeing the mortal remains of CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran | A Sanesh

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Filmmaker Vinayan was fighting a forlorn battle in the Malayalam film industry when he received an unexpected boost. It was the intervention by then AITUC general secretary Kanam Rajendran, who openly backed Vinayan, that changed the fate of a nearly lost cause.

“It was in early 2007 that I met Kanam,” Vinayan recounted. “It was a time of turmoil when I, as a member of the Malayalam Cine Technicians Association (MACTA), opposed the stand adopted by the Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA) over actor Thilakan’s role in my film. I fought a lonely battle and eventually MACTA split. My group had very little backing. This was when Kanam telephoned me,” he told TNIE.

“I had never met him. Kanam said he is a film lover who has been watching the industry evolve from a distance. He stressed that in questioning the autocratic practices of some so-called superstars of the industry, we held the moral high ground. He promised the AITUC’s full support. I was surprised at the time. Only Sukumar Azhikode had sided with us in some of his speeches. Now, here was Kanam declaring the’s AITUC total support. Its workers even staged protests at the film sets of those who were opposing me,” Vinayan said.It was Kanam who helped Vinayan land the chairmanship of Horticorp in 2016.    

During his tenure as state general secretary of the AITUC, Kanam paid special attention to unorganised sectors in the state. It was at his insistence that trade unions were formed in many of these sectors. Hire-and-fire policies in new-age banks and the IT sector were left unquestioned. AITUC formed trade unions in these sectors even before the CITU stepped in. AITUC’s intervention helped save many jobs.

AITUC was the first trade union to organise street vendors. “Kanam Rajendran was our guiding light,” said Street Vendors Labourers Federation state joint secretary Michael Bastian. “He called me to say that we are doing great work. Union activity helped labourers in every way,” he added.

As an MLA, Kanam brought in a bill to protect the rights of construction workers. He introduced it as a private bill. The Building Labourers Act, which was later taken up by the assembly and passed, took inspiration from the private bill Kanam introduced.

Cremation tomorrow

The mortal remains of Kanam Rajendran will be brought to Thiruvananthapuram at 7 am on Saturday. The body will be first kept at his home, and later at the CPI state committee office for the public to pay homage. At 2 pm, the mortal remains will be taken to Kottayam by road. The cremation will be held at 11 am on Sunday in Vazhoor, Kottayam. Kanam is survived by his wife Vanaja, son Sandeep, daughter Smitha, daughter-in-law Thara Sandeep and son-in-law V Sarveswaran.

Kanam was a pillar of Left unity: CM

KOCHI: Kanam Rajendran was one of the pillars of Left unity, and his demise has come as a big shock, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in his condolence message on Friday. The CM said Kanam’s demise, which comes at a time when the need for Left-secular unity is very high, increases the severity of the loss.

The CM underscored Kanam’s contributions in fortifying communist parties, leading the trade union movement, and upholding secular and democratic values. Kanam’s trajectory to leadership, rooted in student union activities, consistently positioned him as a voice that reinforced non-partisanship, he said.

“As a formidable trade union leader, Kanam was committed to maintaining worker unity and addressing their collective demands. His extensive experience in student, youth, and trade union movements provided a robust foundation for his role as the CPI state secretary. During his tenure in the assembly, Kanam actively addressed critical issues, significantly contributing to legislative matters and consistently siding with the oppressed,” he said.

‘A role model’: Mullakkara Ratnakaran, CPI leader

I met Kanam Rajendran during a state camp of the Youth Federation at Kottarakara in 1979. By then, he had given up his role in the federation and was working as a CPI secretariat member. He was a role model for the sacrifices he made as a youth leader. Those days, leaders would sleep in the party office, accept the food and travel fare offered by sympathisers of the party. Only such people could become a party leader back then.

Kanam used the experience he acquired during his interactions with society and his knowledge to make matured and adept analysis of political complexities.In fact, Kanam was among the several communist leaders who could make such analyses.

‘I have lost my best friend, fellow comrade’: K E Ismail, Former CPI national executive member, ex-minister

We were friends for a long time. Perhaps I’m the only senior leader who is closest to Kanam Rajendran. We started working for the party as youngsters. In 1982, we became MLAs and worked together for 10 years. Our relationship strengthened during our time in the assembly. As opposition members, we put up a joint fight against the government.

As secretary of the parliamentary party in the House, I was tasked with assigning my party members to take up different matters. Kanam was active and vociferous. I assigned him the most important matters. He was an exceptional performer in the assembly.  Later, we worked together in the party’s state council, national council and national executive. For most of our political careers, we worked together and in unison. He was my best friend and comrade. I don’t think Kanam shared a similar bond with any other senior CPI leader. He was an efficient trade union leader too. His demise is a big loss to the people, the party and his family.

(With inputs from Unnikrishnan S, M S Vidyanandan)

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