Kanam: A Communist To The Core, A Pillar Of Left Unity In Kerala | Arabian Weekly


By P. Sreekumaran

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The left movement in the country in general and in Kerala in particular suffered a grievous loss in the passing away of Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary Kanam Rajendran.

Kanam had been admitted to hospital on October 25 with multiple ailments, including a wound on his leg. As the wound remained unhealed due to diabetes, amputation of his left foot became unavoidable. He was fast on the road to recovery. But the unexpected end came following a massive heart attack. He was 73. Kanam, who became known by the village he hailed from, was on a three-month leave from the party on health grounds. The CPI state executive meeting did not name anybody as an interim replacement as he was expected to return to active politics soon. But that was not to be. And he made his exit to the utter shock of one and all.

An ardent advocate of left unity, Kanam had great qualities of head and heart, which endeared him to one and all, transcending party affiliations.

A native of Kottayam, Kanam had many firsts to his credit. Comrade Rajendran became the All India Youth Federation secretary at the young age of 19 in 1969. He made it to the CPI State Council at the age of 20 in 1970 and was elected to the party’s state secretariat at the age of 25.From 2006 to 2014, Kanam remained the AITUC general secretary. In 2015, he was elected as the CPI state secretary. And he was re-elected as the CPI state secretary in 2018 and 2022. Kanam had the rare opportunity of rubbing shoulders with party stalwarts like M N Govindan Nair, TV Thomas, C. Achutha Menon and N E Balaram. In 1970 itself Kanam became the state secretary of the Kerala State Trade Union Council.

His contributions in many capacities in All Indian Trade Union Congress(AITUC) and in many unorganized sectors such as cinema, information technology and new age banks were immense. Film-maker Vinayan has fond memories of Kanam, who extended solid support to him in his fight against vested interests in the film industry. The year was 1970 when Vinayan, then a member of Malayalam Cine Technicians Association(MACTA), strongly opposed the stand adopted by the Film Employees Federation of Kerala(FEFKA) over veteran actor Thilakan’s role in his film. It was a lonely battle which ended in a split in MACTA. His group had little support. It was at that point that Kanam came in support of him. That support changed the fate of what otherwise would have been a lost cause.

Kanam was also elected to the State Assembly twice, in 1982 and 1987 from Vazhoor Assembly constituency in Kottayam district. He, however, lost in 1991 and 1996. Among his notable contributions was a private bill for the welfare of construction workers which ultimately paved the way for the Kerala Building and Other Construction Workers Act.

His tenure as AITUC general secretary saw the formation of unions in the unorganized sector. AITUC formed trade unions in the new-age banks and the IT sector which until then practised hire-and fire policies unquestioned. Needless to say, Kanam’s powerful intervention resulted in many jobs being saved. AITUC also had the distinction of being the first TU to organize street vendors during his tenure as the TU’s chief.

Above all, Kanam Rajendran was an untiring advocate of left unity. One particular instance needs special mention. When the differences between the Students Federation of India (SFI) and All India Students Federation(AISF) affiliated to the CPI took an ugly turn in 2019, Kanam intervened, and with support from his CPI(M) counterpart Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, defused the tension. It must be mentioned that Kanam and Kodiyeri differed on many issues. But to their credit, both ensured that the differences never reached the point of no return.

In this context, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan hit the nail on the head when he said in his tributes that Kanam was a strong pillar of left unity. His contributions to strengthen the unity of the working class, democratic institutions and secular values were, Pinarayi recalled, invaluable. That his passing away has come at a time when there is need for total unity of secular and democratic forces is nothing but tragic, the C M said.

As far as the CPI is concerned, his exit is an irreparable loss. The void is not easy to fill. Kanam had effectively managed to navigate the party through choppy waters when CK Chandrappan, whom he admired greatly, passed away. When it came to ideological issues, Kanam was an uncompromising leader. He never shied away from calling a spade a spade, and criticized the LDF government on occasions. But the criticism never menaced left unity. At times, Kanam was accused of being too soft on the CPI(M). But he shrugged off the criticism and saw to it that the relations with the CPI(M) remained cordial. That was his signal contribution to the left movement and principled politics. Kerala will take a long time to get over the shock of his death. Lal Salam and a big salute to you, comrade. (IPA Service)

The post Kanam: A Communist To The Core, A Pillar Of Left Unity In Kerala first appeared on Latest India news, analysis and reports on IPA Newspack.

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