To a journalist Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has lost a great leader who showed closeness as a brother. A leader who was free to call and meet in person at any time. It is doubtful if there is any other communist leader who has treated the media with such amiability and gentleness without the weight of ideology. He faced the journalist’s harsh question gently but forcefully.
Even when newspapers were full of harsh news against the party, himself and his family, he spoke without showing any resentment when called on the phone. One night when he was Home Minister there was some news on a Kannada channel about his son. Kodiyeri called on the phone at night. “I understand that the news on the channel is not factual. You should give the news only after investigating whether it is true.” He did not say not to give the news.
I told the editor what Kodiyeri said. Our investigation also found that the news of that day was not factual. Manorama did not give that news. But the words of the father who called directly to the newspaper office for his son that night were full of love and affection for his son. It is another matter that later the father had to bow down in front of his children’s actions.
While being a strong communist leader, Kodiyeri is also a loving father who keeps his hands on his children’s shoulders. But the father’s failure to guide his children to the communist lifestyle was a setback. The father himself, who brought his son inside the police jeep, said, “If he is guilty, let him be hanged.”
Just before the Malappuram conference, when sectarianism was on the rise in the party, he once met Kodiyeri privately through a friend. At that time there were reports in the media that VS Achuthanandan was gaining supremacy in the party. Kodiyeri said that the news being written by newspapers is not true. Some figures were also shown to prove it. I was amazed that he trusted me to show it. “I’m not showing this so that you can give it to the newspaper. To know what the facts are. Finally correcting the speculations, the Pinarayi faction won the party conference. What Kodiyeri said that day was a cliché.
Even though he was a strict party man, Kodiyeri had an innocent smile on his face. Kodiyeri, who himself stepped down as secretary after illness and the arrest of his son, was brought back to the post in recognition of his ability to hold the front together and prevent factionalism in the party. Kodiyeri had an uncanny ability to closely observe young leaders at party gatherings and spot and encourage their talents.
A mind to meet and chat with party workers and non-party friends alike during rush hour and on the go. He maintained personal friendship with the leaders of the opposite party even when he was fighting politically. Kodiyeri was one of those who insisted that former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy go to the US for treatment when he had a throat ailment and sought treatment in hospitals in Kerala. In the 80s and 90s, Kodiyeri was a companion of partygoers at bus stands and second class compartments in the railways.
Kodiyeri, who came through the student movement and reached the Politburo, the highest body of the CPM, is the smiling face of the Communist. He was released from jail after 16 months of being arrested during Emergency. When Kodiyeri Balakrishnan was the Home Minister, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was taken away by the Kerala Police in front of the MLA Hostel. Kodiyeri was in Delhi when the incident took place. Kodiyeri flew to Thiruvananthapuram before the party’s decision. He went to Raj Bhavan and directly expressed his regret to Manmohan Singh. Party ideology did not prevent Kodiyeri, who never held power head-on, from expressing his regrets to a Congress prime minister.
Even when criticizing the media, he did not like to exclude journalists. It was a time when political conflict was raging in Kannur. Bombardment, violence and murder ensue. Kodiyeri’s statement that ‘If necessary, we will make a bomb at the police station too’ created a big controversy in political Kerala. Later, he said, “Wage on the edge of the field”. Those who knew Kodiyeri’s character did not believe that he would do it. But for that speech to boost the morale of ordinary party members.
Later, when Kodiyeri became the police minister, he was criticized for his old speech. But when he became a minister, Kodiyeri became a perfect minister. There are many projects started as Home Minister like Janmaitri Police and Student Police Cadet. For the first time in the history of the state, Kodiyeri organized a central fund of Rs 152 crore for the modernization of jails. The prison has changed its face and started manufacturing products. From chapati to biryani, the jail became a money-making center. New prisons came. It was his experience of being in jail many times that made him think of improving its facilities.
Kodiyeri had a tourism department. His contribution as Tourism Minister was to bring the tourism projects that were concentrated in the cities to the villages. Kodiyeri has been an advocate of reconciliation during the most sectarian period in the CPM’s recent history. When Pinarayi Vijayan was the party secretary and VS Achuthanandan was the Chief Minister, the messenger of peace between the two was none other than him.
The fact that VS ruled for five years and progressed towards continued rule in the next election is also an achievement claimed by Kodiyeri. He was promoted to the post of party secretary after Pinarayi without any question or doubt. Kodiyeri has shown extraordinary mettle as a secretary.
English Summary: Memoir About Kodiyeri Balakrishnan