CPI stalwart Veliyam Bhargavan, a central player of Kerala's coalition politics for several decades, died here today.
Bhargavan (85), who led the party in the state for long, breathed his last in a hospital in the city where he was admitted with pneumonia, a CPI spokesperson said.
Known as "Asan" (teacher) among colleagues and friends, Bhargavan was keeping indifferent health for quite some time.
He is survived by his wife and a daughter. Reputed as a shrewd tactician and pragmatist, he had an unsullied reputation in public life,endearing him to political friends and foes. An organisational man for much of his long career, he played a vital role in building and sustaining LDF after his party snapped ties with Congress in the late 1970s.
He was considered in Kerala's coalition politics as a tough negotiator when it came to asserting CPI'S positions and interests and often clashed with lead partner CPI(M).
However leaders of CPI(M) and other Left parties have acknowledged his contributions in shaping and sustaining Left unity in the state.
Born in a family of modest means at Velyiam village in Kollam district, Bhargavan was a dedicated student of Sanskrit and Indian thought during his school days. As an adolescent,he opted for a spiritual life and for a while even wandered about with a tonsured head as an aspiring sanyasi.
Later, he learnt basics of Marxism and Leninism, was attracted to Communism and joined as a party wholetimer in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore and was tasked with organising workers.
A skilled organiser and persuasive speaker with a deep sense of humour, he rose steadily in the organisational structure and was elected to the assembly in the 1957 polls, which voted undivided CPI to power, for the first time through ballot.
When CPI split in 1964, he remained with it and played a prominent role in building the party as a force to reckon resisting ideological and organisational challenges posed by CPI(M).
By 1971 he became a member of CPI's national council and had been part of the topmost national committees of the party since then.
He served as CPI state secretary from 1998 to 2010 before voluntarily stepping down from the post citing poor health.
Known for his unblemished record as a public figure, Bhargavan chose to remain on the organisational front during his decades long career, barring 1957 and 1960s when he contested and won the assembly polls from Chandayamangalam in Kollam.
He also displayed exemplary skills as organiser of workers and endured physical torture for leading struggles of transport workers in the 1950s.
"His death is not just a loss to the party alone but for the entire left- democratic movement in the country. He also distinguished himself on account of his qualities as an astute and selfless politician of unflinching ideological commitment and determination," CPI leader and Rajya Sabha member M P Achuthan said.
Setting aside political differences, leaders from all parties, including Defence Minister A K Antony, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, CPI(M) veteran V S Achuthanandan and BJP leader O Rajagopal also expressed deep sorrow over Bhargavans' death.
CPI state secretary Panniyan Raveendran said the loss of the party was irreparable while its national leaders A B Bardhan, Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja expressed deep grief in their condolence messages.
The mortal remains of the departed leader will be kept at CPI's state headquarters M N Smarakam tomorrow for the public to pay their last respects and cremated in the afternoon in the presence of national leaders.