EMS: The Malayalee of Twentieth Century

by K Vijayachandran

By Engr. K Vijayachandran F.I.E

As a true Marxist, EMS always identified himself with humanity, with its past, present and future, by consciously participating in its day-to-day struggles towards discovering its own destiny. He was a rare phenomenon: Liberating himself from the stranglehold of caste and religion was a small accomplishment, compared to the thorough shake-up of Namboodiri community, that had hegemonised the life and culture of Malayalees, for more than a millennium, by using the magical spells of his name-sake, Aadi Sankara.

We had met for the first time in May 1979. That was while travelling in the Kerala Express: EMS was travelling to Kerala, in his capacity as the General Secretary of CPI(M), which had made rapid strides under his leadership, thanks to the principled fight against semi-fascist terror, under Indira’s emergency regime. I was travelling with my wife, daughter and son as a prelude to our repartition to Kerala, after eighteen years of my employment with BHEL. That was after two years of protracted struggles within BHEL, under the guidance of P Ramamurthy, the then General Secretary of CITU, against an unpatriotic collaboration proposal with the Siemens of West Germany. I was considered then a martyr by most CPI(M) leaders, a role, I had consistently refused to play. EMS was concerned about my professional future, and was sceptical about my plans in Kerala, for selling Engineering and Management consultancy to bourgeois as well as proletarian classes.

And later, while rendering professional services to the trade union movement, the CPI(M) as well as LDF Governments in Kerala, I had several occasions to discuss with EMS, my own experience as well as that of the working class movement in Kerala and the country at large, from the perspective of India’s Peoples’ Democratic Revolution. Like many others of my class, committed to Indian revolution, I too was impatient and critical of the leadership of CPI(M). Nevertheless, he used to give a patient hearing to all our submissions but pleading with us to be patient, and to understand that the party in concrete was different from the party in abstract. And, he had always succeeded in pacifying, us, the class of arm-chair revolutionaries.

I had participated in all the Kerala state conferences of CPI(M) after settling down in Kerala and the Thiruvananthapuram Congress of 1989 and on all such occasions, sharing with EMS my own impressions, through brief written submissions, was a habit with me from the early eighties. At the time of Palghat Conference, I was Adviser to Industries Minister. Soon after that painful and tragic developments, I made a personal call on EMS at his Manacuad apartments. That was in February 1998, just a few weeks before his death. The good old argument on ‘party in concrete vs party in abstract’ could not hold water, any more. Despite his being the sole moral authority within Kerala CPI(M), EMS did not care to offer any sort of defence for the demeanour of the organisation at Palghat, and pleaded old age as the only reason for shying away from an open confrontation with the enemy within. And, I stole his support for revolting in my own way, simply by touching his feet with both hands, as I took leave of him with tears.

EMS was a rare phenomenon. Elite classes of Kerala, with whom he fought relentlessly, had a sort of love-hate relationship with him: they hated the Man, but valued his Image. How else could one interpret Malaylala Manorama choosing EMS as the Malayalee of Twentieth Century?

18th March 2005 .