M.P. Veerendra Kumar, a man with many roles

He was a writer, media baron and an environmentalist all rolled into one

No leader of contemporary Kerala politics has donned so many roles as did M.P. Veerendra Kumar, Independent MP backed by the CPI(M)-led LDF, who died on Thursday night — he was a writer, orator, media baron and an environmentalist all rolled into one.

He was also the chairman and managing director of the widely circulated Malayalam language newspaper Mathrubhumi.

Veerendra Kumar was an affable socialist, whether the parties he represented were with the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front or the Congress-led United Democratic Front.

From the mofussil town of Kalpetta in Wayanad he worked his way up to make his voice heard in the national capital. He was the first person from the hill district to become a legislator, a member of Parliament and a State and Central Minister.

He was for a while the chief of Janata Dal (Secular) in Kerala, but differences with the Left Front over seat-sharing forced him to form his own party, the Socialist Janata (Democratic), which eventually merged with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), a constituent of the UDF.

As MP representing Kozhikode constituency in 1996 and 2004, his detractors, including a section of the CPI(M), may have unfortunately seen him as an under-performer. But he was a man of conviction, as evidenced by his stubborn refusal to compromise with the then CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan when he was denied the Kozhikode seat in 2009, or his quitting the JD(U) when Nitish Kumar joined hands with the BJP in 2017. He later floated the Loktantrik Janata Dal.

Veerendra Kumar unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls from Kozhikode in 1971. But he soon returned to State politics. He became the Forest Minister in the E.K. Nayanar Cabinet only to step down within 48 hours after his order that no trees inside forests should be felled rattled party leadership. He was also Minister of State in the I.K. Gujral Cabinet in 1997.

For him, writing came naturally. He was also an environmentalist who fought against the setting up of nuclear power plants and flagged the neglect of the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayas. He was a recipient of the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award for his travelogue Haimavathabhoovil.

Veerendra Kumar openly challenged the liberalism of the neo-capitalist, perhaps driven by an ideological trait he acquired from socialist stalwarts Jayaprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia during his formative days. He was more a Left liberal, though many disliked his esoteric doomsayer’s arguments against globalisation.

As a prudent socialist tycoon, he maintained the thin line between politics and business.

His demise comes at a time when the Kerala unit of the Loktantrik Janata Dal is facing an existential crisis and preparing to merge with the Janata Dal (Secular).

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Printable version | Jul 16, 2020 3:50:50 PM |

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