Politically they were miles apart, but G.K. Moopanar, the late Congress veteran from Tamil Nadu, had great admiration for the communist leader N. Sankaraiah, whom he used to call an untiring lion. And Mr. Sankaraiah, turning 93 on June 15 still lives up to that description.
On Friday, he campaigned for the CPI (M) candidate U. Vasuki at North Chennai, yet another page from a long history that began in 1946.
“I first campaigned for my party colleague and jail mate R.K. Santhalal in Madurai who contested against Congress leader N.R. Subbaraman,” said Mr. Sankaraiah, who was first arrested in 1941 when he was a final year student of the American college, Madurai. His long political career spanning over seven decades included nearly eight years in jail.
Sankaraiah, who was one among the many communists who were released just a day before India attained Independence in August 1947, campaigned for communist candidates in the first general elections. It was in this election Periyar, founder of Dravidar Kazhagam, supported the communists.
“But the DMK offered support provided that we accept their demand for creation of a Dravidian country. We rejected their offer as we could not support separatist demands,” recalled Sankaraiah.
Senior communist leaders including P. Jeevanandam, P. Ramamurthy and P. Kalyanasundaram got elected in that election.
Clarity of thought, shorn of even an iota of cynicism, marks Mr. Sankaraiah’s conversation even as he explained how he and his comrades handled the situation in the 1967 elections, which proved to be a testing time. Sankaraiah and his comrades in the CPI (M) had to contest and campaign against their fellow communists who had preferred to stay with the CPI after the split in the communist movement.
“Of course they were my close friends and comrades. But it was a political fight and we could not do anything about it,” said Mr. Sankaraiah, who was elected to the Tamil Nadu Assembly in the 1967, 1977 and in the 1980 elections.
“When I was in Vellore jail, late Kamaraj and other senior Congress leaders were with me. In Thanjavur, former President R. Venkatraman, spent his days with me in prison. We were lodged in prison for opposing the British. But later the Congress represented Indian bourgeois and we represented the Indian working class in elections,” he explained.
Asked whether he had perceived any difference between elections in the past and present and the role of money power, he said people should come together to fight against money power.
He insisted that communists alone could provide an alternate to the Congress and the BJP at the Centre, and the DMK and the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu.
“The onus is on communists to fight the neo-economic policies and the DMK and the AIADMK. If the DMK and the AIADMK join hands with us to fight the BJP and the Congress we are ready for it.
Our fight will continue till the end,” said Mr. Sankaraiah.