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A slog from grassroots to top

Girish Menon
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United Democratic Front (UDF) convenor P.P. Thankachan has every reason to look back with satisfaction.

There are very few people in the Congress like him who started off at the grassroots level and worked his way up through sheer hard work to reach the top ranks in a faction-ridden party.

But looking ahead as he turns 75 on Monday, he finds responsibilities awaiting him especially when the ruling coalition is going through yet another churn.

Mr. Thankachan started his political innings very young, becoming chairman of the Perumbavoor Municipality, a post he held for 12 years from 1968. He represented Perumbavoor Assembly seat for 20 years from 1982. He adorned the Speaker’s chair in Assembly for four years from 1992, followed by a brief yet hectic term as Agriculture Minister, both assignments that witnessed several firsts.

Speaking to The Hindu , Mr. Thankachan rated his decision on free power for paddy cultivators as one that gave him immense satisfaction. “Even though the power sector has changed vastly, Kerala’s farmers continue to enjoy this subsidy,” he says, recollecting how the demands for grants for agriculture was passed for the first and last time without a debate during his tenure as Agriculture Minister.

His affable style of functioning helped him see through the proceedings in Assembly, when it was rocked by the palmolien case and the ISRO spy case, which finally led to the ouster of Chief Minister K. Karunakaran. The legislators should be thankful to Mr. Thankachan for his contribution in introducing an insurance scheme for them and establishing a 24/7 clinic at the MLA hostel. He was instrumental in establishing Assembly committees on Women and Children, Environment, and Backward Classes Welfare.

Mr. Thankachan has held every key party post from Perumbavoor mandalam and block president to District Congress president, KPCC vice-president, and KPCC president before taking over as UDF convenor seven years ago. In a faction-ridden Congress, Thankachan was a staunch Karunakaran acolyte. But he chose to part company with Karunakaran when he started his moves to split the party in 2005.

His unassuming nature has helped him build strong friendships cross the political spectrum, marking him out as one of the few politicians untainted by charges of corruption. Those who have observed him closely attest to his understanding of the undercurrents of Kerala politics and his matured responses in difficult situations.

The question his supporters ask is whether Thankachan will be rewarded with a Governorship for navigating the UDF through the difficult times it is going through currently.

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