Kadakampally: the Synonym for an Amiable, Charismatic Leader

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Kadakampally village, a sleepy little hamlet close to the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, was clearly visible from our abode in Ulloor where we settled down upon returning from a seven-year stint in Libya in 1982. There was the Aakkulam-Veli backwaters strip which enveloped the riot of greenery and rows of hutments that constituted Kadakampally, till the time it emerged as the staging ground for such amazing institutions as the Southern Air Command HQ of IAF, KIMS, NISH, HLL Lifecare, CESS, Aakkulam Tourist Complex, and much else.

Those were the days of heated agitations in Kerala involving students, youth and the underprivileged classes in general. In news reports depicting youth agitations, one name that regularly hit the headlines was Kadakampally Surendran. Even as he led the biggest youth movement in India with a Leftist, and therefore slightly aggressive bend, Surendran stood out as the conciliatory influence, intervening in clashes to calm down both his followers and opponents alike. Working his way up through arguments, discussions, agitations and elections, the amiable youth leader rose to the higher ranks of the moderates in the Communist Party of India-Marxist, getting elected to the State Legislature in 1996, and again, in 2016, this time, rightfully claiming his seat in the Pinarayi Vijayan Cabinet as Minister for Power, Devaswom  and few other departments. In a Cabinet reshuffle last month, Kadakampally was shifted to the all important offices of the Minister for Tourism, Cooperation and Devaswom.

My maiden encounter with Kadakampally came about in 1997 in connection with a certificate from our local MLA, M Vijayakumar, at that time the Speaker of the Kerala State Legislature, who has been a good friend of mine since the late 1980s.

“There is a problem,’’ Vijayakumar told me when I took up the certificate issue in his chamber in the Legislature Complex. “As Speaker, I am not supposed to involve in such matters. By convention, the Speaker assigns a fellow-MLA to manage on his behalf such routine needs of the people of the constituency. Kadakampally Surendran, the MLA from Kazhakkoottam, will take care of this.”

Vijayakumar phoned Surendran, a compatriot who has shared the moments of glory, as also police brutality and incarceration with him, introducing me and my immediate need. I met Surendran at his MLA Quarters room, where he welcomed me with a pleasant smile, recalling his college days when he used to read my columns in Janayugom weekly, a Communist Party publication. In two minutes sharp, he gave me the certificate and asked me to keep in touch. The second chance meeting with the young leader happened at the Kerala University Senate Hall during the Special Convocation held to confer a D.Litt on K J Yesudas, the singing legend. Surendran was, at that time, an elected member of the University Syndicate. We sat together and chatted away on politics and writing.

Today, Kadakampally has his hands full, juggling his time managing three crucially important portfolios. While the problem-ridden Cooperatives will test his nerves, Tourism would be a pleasant experience, as he hails from a village studded with touristic attractions, including Aakkulam and Veli. As for Devaswom affairs, it will provide him opportunities to explore the possibilities for Spiritual Tourism, starting with Sabarimala, the million-pilgrim destination.

Rest assured, Kadakampally will leave his mark on all three challenging portfolios.

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