Obituary: Veteran socialist leader and Member of Parliament Veerendra Kumar passes away at 83

People remember him less for his politics and more as a cultural leader who contributed significantly to literature through his books and also won the Sahitya Akademi award

Veteran socialist leader and Member of Parliament Veerendra Kumar (Photo Courtesy: PTI)
Veteran socialist leader and Member of Parliament Veerendra Kumar (Photo Courtesy: PTI)

NH Web Desk

Veteran socialist leader and Member of Parliament Veerendra Kumar passed away on 28th May 2020, at Calicut, Kerala after a cardiac arrest. He was 83.

MP Veerendra Kumar was born on 15th August 1937 at Kalpetta, now in the Wayanad district, to socialist leader and planter M.K. Padmaprabha Goudar and Marudevi Avva and was married to Usha Veerendra Kumar. He is survived by his wife Usha, daughters Asha, Nisha, and Jayalakshmi, and son M.V. Shreyams Kumar, a former MLA, and state resident, LJD.

His early education came in Kalpetta and Kozhikode before getting a Masters degree in Philosophy from Vivekananda College, Madras, and an MBA from Cincinnati University, Ohio, USA.

He started his long political career by accepting the Socialist Party membership from Jayaprakash Narayan during his school days. Socialist Party was his first political forum. He was the all India treasurer of Samyukta Socialist Party from 1968-70, national secretary, Socialist Party from 1974-1977, convenor, Opposition United Front, Kerala in 1975 and secretary and vice-president of Janata Party Kerala in 1977 and 1983, respectively. From 1968 onwards, he was a member of the National Executive, S.S.P., Socialist Party, Janata Party and Janata Dal.

“He never behaved like a leader to us. Veerendra Kumar attracted all types of people through his knowledge and oratorical skills,” said CPM leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

In 1987, he was elected as MLA on Janata Party’s ticket and became the Minister of Forests in the CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front government headed by E.K. Nayanar. But he had to resign within 48 hours due to policy-related issues over deforestation. His first order reportedly was against cutting forests. In 1996, he was elected to the 11th Lok Sabha from Kozhikode.

He became Union Minister of State for Finance and later Union Minister of State for Labour (Independent charge) with additional charges as Minister of State, Urban Affairs & Employment (Independent charges) and Parliamentary Affairs in the United Front governments led by H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral. He was elected to the Lok Sabha again in 2004. He was a member of the Rajya Sabha since April 2016.

Veerendra Kumar became a director and later Managing Director of the Mathrubhumi group of publications. He was Chairman and Managing Director, ‘Mathrubhumi’ since 1979, Chairman, Press Trust of India, 1988, Director, P.T.I., President, India News Paper Society, Member, International Press Institute and Commonwealth Press Union. He was an avid collector of watches and pens, a taste inherited from his father.

He was a man of paradoxes. He hailed from a feudal Jain family that owned acres of coffee estates in Kerala’s Wayanad district, and yet he rose to be one of the key leaders of Kerala’s socialist movement. People remember him less for his politics and more as a cultural leader who contributed significantly to literature through his books and also won the Sahitya Akademi award and the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award.

Social And Cultural Activities

A prolific writer, he wrote books on subjects such as politics, philosophy and economics. M.P. Veerendra Kumar had always been opposed to the neoliberal economic policies and fought for environmental protection. He was a social activist at the forefront of all people struggles in Kerala during the last five decades.

‘Born comrade’ with feudal roots, Veerendra Kumar was secular to the core and he had one last wish — a united socialist party.

Thampan Thomas, former MP and his colleague in the Socialist movement, said Veerendra Kumar remained a socialist all his life. “I had an association with him for more than 50 years. He considered Rammanohar Lohia his icon, and joined the socialist movement back in the early 1960s when he was just a student. Since then, he has been a socialist at heart and continued to be one till his last breath,” Thomas said.

Despite having switched parties multiple times through his career, Thampan Thomas said M.P. Veerendra Kumar remained consistent in his ideological commitment to socialism. But there was one wish he couldn’t fulfil. “All he really wanted to be was for all the socialist parties to get united. That was the one dream of his he couldn’t fulfil,” Thomas said.

He changed a lot of parties over the years, serving stints in the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Janata Dal (United) as well. In 2018, a year after Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) joined hands with the BJP in Bihar, a “hardcore secular” at heart and a man of principles, M.P. Veerendra Kumar resigned as Rajya Sabha MP after quitting the JD(U) since he had won on their ticket. He then returned to Parliament as an independent MP.

M.P. Veerendra Kumar was undoubtedly one of the prominent socialist leaders Kerala has seen. But, he was much more than a mere political leader.

Though MP Veerendra Kumar was part of the CPI (M) led Left Democratic Front since its inception, he and his party switched sides and joined the Congress-led United Democratic Front after differences of opinion with the Left leadership in 2009. He came back to the LDF some time ago. He had been part of the Janata Dal, Janata Dal (Secular), Janata Dal (United), Socialist Janata Democratic (SJD) as well as the Loktantrik Janta Dal (LJD) which is now in the LDF fold.

Cultural icon, prolific author, orator of class

An eloquent orator and prolific writer, he authored many works on philosophy, economics and politics, socialist ideology, globalisation and secularism, Vivekananda: Human Being and Saint, travelogues etc. M.P. Veerendra Kumar was a popular cultural icon, an orator of class, a thoroughly well-read politician and a prolific author who went on to write many books.

His book Ramante Dukham delved into how ‘Hindutva’ has desecrated the idea of Ram. He also wrote a book on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade where he spoke about how international treaties were undermining the lives and economic conditions of third-world countries, particularly India.

Paying tributes to the departed soul, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “As a political leader, writer, intellectual, orator and much more, he left his indelible mark on all fields; imbued with socialist leanings, he relentlessly fought communal and divisive forces till his last breath.”

His death is an irreparable loss to the progressive, secular and socialist forces in the country in a time of greatest need.

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