Thalassery: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had not publicly spoken for around 44 hours after his long-time comrade-in-arms Kodiyeri Balakrishnan died in Chennai Saturday night.
And when he spoke at the all-party condolence meet after the funeral on Payyambalam beach, he choked on his words and cut short his speech. "I am uncertain on how to even start. I never considered such a farewell even in my dreams. So words may fail me," he said.
In the 10 minutes he falteringly spoke, Pinarayi Vijayan expressed gratitude on behalf of the CPM to the doctors in India and abroad who treated Kodiyeri Balakrishnan when he was first diagnosed with cancer.
"He was given a lot of attention and care in Apollo Hospital. But some things are beyond our control," the chief minister said.
The doctors started the treatment with a lot of hope but they later realised the condition of the body was dangerous. The disease had spread to various parts of the body, he said.
The chief minister said twice that the recent events made him realise that the innate human goodness was not completely lost. He also appreciated the media for the "healthy approach" they took in covering the demise of the leader.
"Comrade Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is the most important leader of the CPM in Kerala. All of a sudden he is gone... The departure pained us a lot. Kerala society embraced our pain... CPM's unbearable loss was absorbed by all political parties. In today's times, we realise it is an important thing," he said.
Whenever any leader departs, the party tries to collectively fill in but this departure cannot be filled soon, Pinarayi said. "But we have only one assurance to give to party comrades, party relatives, and those who love the party. This is a big loss. There is no doubt...," he choked. "But we are trying to fill in ... as I said before... I am wrapping up," said Pinarayi, overwhelmed with emotion.
Speaking later, CPI leader Binoy Vishwam said he had never seen Pinarayi Vijayan so saddened and so emotional. "Pinarayi Vijayan's broken words captured Kodiyeri Balakrishnan's most loving moments, his strengths, and the depth of his loss," he said.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the party would make a detailed assessment of Kodiyeri's service and make it available to the public. "The manner in which he battled cancer will be an inspiration to many people," he said.
CPM leader Prakash Karat said he first met Kodiyeri at the second conference of the SFI in Kolkata in 1973. "But till now I had assumed he was my age. It was only after his passing away that I knew he was five years younger than me," he said.
Karat said he misjudged Kodiyeri's age because of his political maturity and organisational skills. "We will miss him for that," he said.
Earlier, Pinarayi Vijayan took part in the funeral procession by walking for around 3.5 km from CPM's party office to Payyambalam beach. After reaching the funeral site, the 77-year-old chief minister and 70-year-old Yechury carried the mortal remains of Kodiyeri to the pyre.
CPM state secretary M V Govindan, senior leaders Prakash Karat, M A Baby, Sreemathy P K, K K Shailaja, and K N Balagopal were the other leaders who helped carry the body.
Eight officers of the Kerala Police fired three volleys of shots in honour of the leader. His sons Binoy Kodiyeri and Bineesh Kodiyeri lit the pyre.