Emotional admirers share memories of Oommen Chandy as tributes pour in

Chief minister of Kerala twice over and MLA 12 times since 1970, Chandy passed away as the longest-sitting legislator of the state (53 years). Aged 79, he was battling throat cancer

The late Oommen Chandy, who passed away on 18 July 2023 (photo courtesy @SudhakaranINC/Twitter)
The late Oommen Chandy, who passed away on 18 July 2023 (photo courtesy @SudhakaranINC/Twitter)

NH Digital

As chief minister, Oommen Chandy was invited to attend a function at a school in north Kerala. After the event, as he walked back to his car, a young boy called out his name. The chief minister stopped in his tracks, turned around and approached the boy with a smile. The boy wanted the chief minister to arrange a house for a friend of his, as the family did not have a proper dwelling.

The chief minister was so moved that he collected all the details and ensured that the family was rehabilitated and allotted a house. Once the family moved into the house, the chief minister visited the family to check if all was well.

This anecdote is one of the several anecdotes that people have been sharing about the former Kerala chief minister as news of his death spread on Tuesday, 18 July.

TV anchor and political analyst Sumanth Raman reminisced, “I remember once when he was Kerala CM he came to visit his relative living down our road. He came with just one car, a policeman and a driver. I know Kerala politicians are not as fond of pomp as their counterparts in other states, but still his simplicity when he was CM was amazing.“

A 'diehard Modi fan', Anilkumar Krishnapillai tweeted, “He was perhaps the most people-friendly [chief minister] of independent India. Always surrounded by people till late in the night. I am a diehard Modi-ji fan but this leader is amazing. Huge loss to the Kerala social fabric.”

Congress stalwart A.K. Antony, an old friend of Chandy's, broke down as he told the media, “This is the biggest loss I have faced ever since I entered public life through student politics. His demise is also the biggest loss for my family. I wouldn’t have had a family life had it not been for his pressure.” Recounting how Oommen Chandy and his wife Mariamma connected Antony to his wife Elizabeth, the leader said, “He and his wife Mariamma Oommen are the reason for my family life. She was the one who found my wife."

"Whoever approached him would not return disappointed. He was thinking of ways to help others even when he was sick,” Antony added.

Others were equally emotional as they recalled the departed leader’s simplicity. One admirer recalled an incident "when I, my husband, and children dined in a familiar vegetarian hotel, the Arul Jyothi, in Trivandrum. Chandy and his wife arrived for dinner, and the chatter was how they finished eating without any fuss, paid the bill and left”.

Another distraught admirer recalled, “When I was studying in Kottayam CMS college, we invited him as chief guest to an NSS camp at Ayarkunnam. I recall him arriving in a Maruti 800 or Alto along with just his driver.”

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah was also one of the many who went to pay their last respects to Chandy. He said, “The news of the death of Oommen Chandy, who was a dear friend, is shocking. He was one among the chief ministers who was the reason behind keeping Kerala in a higher position as far as Human Development Index is concerned. His achievement as chief minister of Kerala is immense.” He also added that Chandy had appreciated several of Karnataka government’s schemes including Anna Bhagya, writing in a letter that the government had a “clear goal and path for the upliftment of the poor and middle-class”.

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Droupadi Murmu acknowledged Chandy's stature as a people's leader on social media.

During his long political career, Chandy served as labour minister in 1977 in the K. Karunakaran ministry and held the same portfolio in the ministry led by A.K. Antony in the succeeding cabinet. He was the home minister in the K. Karunakaran cabinet from December 1981 to March 1982. He also held the finance portfolio in the UDF (United Democratic Front) ministry of 1991.

Chandy did his schooling at the St. George High School, Kottayam, and went on to become an alumnus of the CMS College, Kottayam, the SB College Changanassery, and the Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram.

Immensely popular with the masses, he is known and remembered for his ‘mass contact’ programme to address the problems faced by the public during his term as chief minister.

Chandy leaves behind his wife Mariamma Oommen and their children Achu Oommen, Maria Oommen and Chandy Oommen.

Today's Opposition meeting in Bengaluru commenced with a silent prayer for the departed Chandy.

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Published: 18 Jul 2023, 4:35 PM