When a young Kadannappally deflated EK Nayanar


Onmanorama's 'Election Yarn' series unravel the threads of history and delve into captivating tales from past general elections.

It's the Maharajas College campus. The 1971 Lok Sabha election dates have been announced.

On a breezy afternoon in January 1971, a frail 26-year-old law student with a high forehead and long sideburns named Kadannappally Ramachandran was having a good time with his KSU mates. All the KSU stalwarts were there: A K Antony, Oommen Chandy, Vayalar Ravi, P C Chacko.  Out of the blue Vayalar Ravi popped a question. "Why not put our Ramachandran opposite AKG in Kasaragod? He is after all from Kasaragod"

Kadannappally laughed his guts out. "Me against the mightiest communist of them all. Crazy," he said. But his friends found Ravi's brainwave sensible. Four years ago, in 1967, DMK had used student leader P Seenivasan to trounce the mighty K Kamaraj in Tamil Nadu's Virudhunagar constituency. So the KSU thinking was: "Let's use the student leader tactic that DMK used against Kamaraj to defeat AKG."  

Kadannappally was not convinced. But the CPM sensed danger. These young KSU leaders led by Antony had by then acquired cult status among the youth in Kerala. On top of it, Indira Gandhi's 'garibi hatao' slogan had captured India's imagination. So there was a fear that the party's biggest crowd puller could get confined in Kasaragod. The party shifted AKG to Palakkad, then a safer bet for the CPM, and asked the sitting Palakkad MP, E K Nayanar, to take on Kadannappally in Kasaragod. Kasaragod had been AKG territory since 1957 and in 1967 he did a hat-trick with a margin of 1.19 lakh votes.

Nayanar was no lightweight. He was the most popular among CPM's second generation leaders and was hailed as the Kayyur hero. To make things worse for Kadannappally, Kasaragod constituency had as much or more party villages than even Kannur. It was with a certain dread that his campaign party went through these villages. By Kadannappally's own admission, he didn't have the looks or the oratory to charm them either.

But there was no hostility, just the amusement of watching the lean nobody who wanted to defeat AKG. A kind of pity.

Things changed when he reached a small village called Cheruvathoor. He was at least four hours late when he reached the venue. It was past 11 pm. Still, there was a crowd curious to see him, this wisp of a guy who thought he coud defeat AKG and now Nayanar.

Just as he was about to take the mike, a local Congress worker informed him that a pregnant woman who had come to see him had suddenly developed labour pain and had to be rushed home. Kadannappaly felt anxious and insisted on seeing the woman. He did away with his prepared election speech.

The entire village now walked with him to the woman's house. From a distance, they could hear the cry of the newborn. Kadannappally Ramachandran went in, had a glimpse of the child.

And as he came out he felt something miraculous had happened. On the faces that greeted him outside the house at this midnight hour, it was not pity or ridicule that he saw. But genuine warmth.

Kadannappally defeated Nayanar by 28,000 votes. But before the results were out something had happened that told him that he had truly touched the hearts of Kasaragod voters. He came to know that the boy who was born on the day he visited Cheruvathoor was named Ramachandran, after him. Kadannappally, now a minister in Pinarayi's cabinet, is still in touch with his namesake.

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