He is defiance personified. Taciturn in nature and uncompromising in his positions, he has more enemies than any active politician in Kerala. Such virulent opposition withstanding, he is also the most popular political leader in the State. Velikkakath Sankaran Achuthanandan, this symbol of resistance against all forces of exploitation, will turn 90 on Sunday.

Mr. Achuthanandan has always been a rebel in the mainstream, initially as a firebrand Communist Party activist among coir and farm workers of Alappuzha.

Later, even after turning into a mainstream politician, who would not turn away from a battle, be it against diverse mafia or the corrupt in the top rungs of power or, still more significantly, against his own party and its leadership. His reputation is as one of the last living founders of the CPI(M), after he, along with 31 other members of the national council of the undivided Communist Party, walked out in 1964 to form the party. Still earlier, he had played a major role in the Punnapra-Vayalar uprising for which he was arrested on October 28, 1946.

He was imprisoned for 15 months at the Poojappura Central Prison. During his seven decades-long political life, Mr. Achuthanandan was behind bars for five-and-a-half years, having been arrested under Defence of India Rules after the India-China conflict in 1962 and during Emergency.

After serving as the party’s iron-fisted State secretary for long, he got defeated in the 1996 Assembly election, thanks to manipulations by his party colleagues.

He, however, bounced back to decimate his opponents at the Palakkad State conference in 1998 and soon became the symbol of popular resistance to diverse kinds of exploitation.

He was initially denied candidature in the 2006 Assembly election, but had to be fielded following a huge public uproar and became Chief Minister. The sword of party discipline fell on him in 2009 when he was dropped from the Polit Bureau for indiscipline. In 2011, there was an attempt to deny him seat in the Assembly elections, but once again he returned to lead his party and the Opposition LDF. The alliance lost the poll by a whisker. Mr. Achuthanandan has been battling on within the party and it might be in keeping with his nature that he is pulled up by the Polit Bureau for his ‘baseless and unwarranted’ charges as he celebrates his 90th birthday.