A K Antony hails Kanam as 'man of principle'; CPI leaders recollect memories

Kanam and AK Antony during the book launch of Jairam Ramesh. Photo: Manorama/ File

Thiruvananthapuram: The sudden demise of CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran shocked Kerala on Friday. Several politicians including CPI, CPM, Congress and BJP leaders condoled the demise of the eminent politician. Talking to Malayala Manorama, senior Congress leader AK Antony shared his memory with Kanam.

“When I was the defence minister, a strike broke out at the BrahMos unit in Thiruvananthapuram. Kanam Rajendran was one of the main union leaders there. I rang him up and requested his cooperation to resolve the issue amicably since it was a major institution under the Defense Ministry. It took it in the same sense. Discussions were held, and the solution arrived at soon, leading to withdrawal of the strike,” he remembered.

Kanam was true to his convictions and not afraid to voice his genuine opinions openly, even if he knew that his stance might be unpopular or controversial. He had endured political setbacks because of this nature. To an extent, he acted as a corrective force within the Left Democratic Front (LDF), Antony added.

“Along with our youth brigade leaders of Congress, C K Chandrappan, Kaniyapuram Ramachandran and Antony Thomas were the three prominent leaders who led the youth wing of the communist party. Kanam rose quickly through the political ranks as a close associate of the trio. I have maintained a close relationship with him since that period,” he said.

He recollected that Kanam was also one of the speakers during the function in which he released the book penned by Jayaram Ramesh on Indira Gandhi. The book launch was held at Thiruvananthapuram two years ago. 

“ During the event, we shared with the audience almost a common viewpoint against the Athirappilly hydroelectric project. That was the last function in which both of us attended together. He spoke confidently, even when I called him up while he was in the hospital,” Antony recollected.

A comrade who studies issues in depth: D Raja
“I first met Kanam, who was senior to me in the party, in Chennai in 1975. We were both members of the Youth Federation. Kanam had reached Chennai to get a visa to attend the Communist Youth Conference to be held in Sri Lanka. At that time, I was working as the secretary of the Youth Federation’s Tamil Nadu unit. We went to the Visa office together,” CPI national general secretary D Raja opened up about Kanam.

“Kanam soon moved out of the Youth Federation and focused his operations on the trade union front. In the meantime, I too shifted my base to Delhi. From the trade union, Kanam kept changing the ranks slowly to the party leadership. His organizational capability and skills as a party worker soon promoted him to the party's leadership in Kerala. In terms of party memberships and legislative members, CPI currently boasts its strongest organizational presence in Kerala,” he pointed out.

Kanam Rajendran, D Raja and Binoy Viswam. Photo: Manorama/ File

“Kanam, who was a member of the party’s national secretariat in Delhi, approached issues after a detailed analysis and made interventions accordingly. I still remember the discussions he used to hold over the books authored by the French economist Thomas Piketty and on the inequalities arising out of capitalism, etc. The departure of a committed leader like Kanam is indeed a great loss to the party,” he added.

A five-decade-long friendship that never wavered: K E Ismail
I have lost one of my closest friends with whom I had worked together for a long five decades. I entered the party state council in 1968 while Kanam reached the body in 1971. In 1982, we made our entry to the Kerala assembly together. In fact, I got a chance to get close to him and work together after he became a legislator. Though the media always reported that we had an issue between us over certain stances, our friendship and relationship were never disturbed. The communist party had always taken clear positions on different issues and this could lead to differences in opinions when spoken out loud. Beyond that, there had never been any issues between us.

We were all hopeful that Kanam would overcome his health issues and soon make a comeback. Because of this, the news about his abrupt departure comes as a shocker to us. At a time when the democracy in this country is facing challenges and when the Lok Sabha elections to be held in 2024 assume so much strategic significance, Kanam’s demise marks a great loss to the left politics in the country.

A leader who was a crowd puller: Pannyan Raveendran
I was about to meet Kanam at the hospital to discuss certain important issues and had already booked the train ticket to Kochi for this morning.  In fact, he was very active when I rang him up the other day to inform him about the meeting. He, however, left this world before I could reach there and meet him one last time. I am yet to recover from the shock that I suffered upon hearing about the news of his death.

Pannyan Raveendran and Kanam. File Photo: Manorama

When he became the state secretary of the AIYF, I served as the organization’s Kannur district secretary. This marked the beginning of a long relationship that only grew in strength over time. I still remember a meeting held at South Bazar in Kannur, a CPM bastion. Our organization was so weak that it did not even have the capacity to erect a stage. As Kanam, who inaugurated the meeting, started his speech, only less than 25 persons were present in the audience. In some 20 minutes, some 500 people turned up and in no time, it became a massive event. Although I was junior to him at the youth organizational level, he worked by my side when I became the party secretary. I was among those who wanted Kanam to succeed me as the party secretary.

When the doctors who had treated him finally suggested amputating his foot, I was shocked. I went to the hospital and met him. His mind too could not approve of this decision completely. For about half an hour, we talked about this by keeping all others outside the room. Eventually, he said, if medical science reached that decision, he would accept it without hesitation or fear. Having undergone physiotherapy, he soon restored the energy and was confident about returning to party work soon.

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