- Written by D. Babu Paul - Currently an intellectual nomad the author served the Government from 1962 to 2001, joining as a Junior Engineer and retiring as the State Ombudsman.
"Oommen Chandy and I are of the same generation. And I have watched him for almost a half century. He is a miracle!"
Chandy is a politician
“who knows how to make democracy work,
“who loves the intricate workings of the democratic system,
“who knows that friends are not always allies and adversaries
are not always enemies,
“who knows that words are his weapons but his word is his bond,
“who knows that to gain room for maneuver he should leave
room for discussion and concession,
“who knows that the best way to be a winner is to make the other
side feel that it does not have to be a loser”.
That makes him a miracle.
1977 was for political Kerala, the Year of the Miracle. The only year in the history of Kerala State when an outgoing political combination was voted back to power. Never before. Never after. Nobody ever discussed such a possibility. We do not discuss the possibility of colonizing Jupiter or Mars in our lifetime. Somehow 2016 seems to be different. Of course nobody can predict the outcome of an election, particularly in Kerala. However people do not consider it blasphemous to discuss the return of Oommen Chandy to power. Whether he would remains a question of course but a question that cannot be easily dismissed. People are discussing the answer. That is what makes 2016 also another Year of the Miracle.
This is because there are many similarities between the Governments of Achyuta Menon and Oommen Chandy. Both focused on development. Both marked in history with the imprint of the personality of the Chief Minister. Both identified with slender majority. Both rocked by allegations while in power. Nobody forecast in 1970 that the Menon Government would last beyond a possible second year. Yet it did. Nobody was sure that the Chandy Government would survive the summer of discontent in 2012.But it did. No two CMs could have been more different than Menon and Chandy. Menon was a consistent first class first rank type whom teachers expected to join the ICS. Chandy’s teachers would never have expected him to become a good clerk, steeped as he was in politics from his early school days. Menon was reticent. Chandy is vocal. Menon would disappear to Kovalam or Aruvikkara over the weekend, and to Idukki or Munnar once every few months, with a bag full of books to read and quench his intellectual thirst. Chandy apparently read his last book in the Law College. Menon shunned crowds. Chandy thrives amidst people. And yet the two are compared, and deemed comparable. Both are recognized as effective CMs. Oommen Chandy is a charismatic leader. He emits a positive energy wherever he goes. It used to be said of Karunakaran in his prime that he was like a phantom. Now here, and now there. OC, as his friends know him, is a super phantom. He is not only now here and now there but is always everywhere. It was Karunakaran’s strong point that in every ward of every Panchayat from Kaliyikkavila on the TN border to Kasaragod on the Karnataka border he could address at least two Congress workers by first name. Oommen Chandy will address three! It is this charisma of the leader that sustains the government. And it is not empty. He works hard. He makes up for lost sleep by taking power naps when his hosts wax eloquent eulogizing him in welcome speeches. He works on his files in the coupes of the long distance trains. And all this work is not aimless. He grasps very quickly. He decides equally quickly. And he delivers on time. That is why the Government carries his imprint all over. The Oommen Chandy government is noted for its clear perspectives on development, both short term and long term. Sea, land and air. It was Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, the outstanding Diwan of erstwhile Travancore, who conceived the idea of a deep sea port at Vizhinjam. That was in 1940s. Oommen Chandy made the word take flesh in December 2015.
The work is in full swing. CP had never heard of a Metro train. OC set out to give Kerala one. The first coaches took a trial run early in 2016. North Kerala from where Lord Parasurama threw his axe will soon see aircrafts taking off to provide an airlink for Kasargod and Kannur with the State capital close to where the axe fell. The Smart City. The Infopark. The Light Metro. The suburban rail system. The strengthening of the RTI machinery. The widening of the highways. The empowerment of women. The enlargement of e-literacy. Government Medical Colleges in every district. The State Civil Service Academy that helped more than 300 people from the middle and lower classes and backward and scheduled sections of society to scale heights in civil service since he founded it in 2005 in his first incarnation as Chief Minister. Meaningful initiatives in higher education. On and on. A government that functions. And welfare measures. More than 800 Crores of rupees reached more than a million sick people. About 500 Crores to more than 200000 people through the CM’s Distress Relief Fund. Around 600 medicines are distributed free through Government hospitals and dispensaries. Medical Insurance for more than three million people. Monthly pension of Rs. 600 for a million farmers and agricultural workers who could work no more. Five million beneficiaries under the various schemes of social security. Palliative care throughout the State. Screening of newborns. Helpline for pupils facing examinations with counseling by experienced teachers and psychologists. The list goes on. A government that touches all. And the world noticed. In 2013 the UN Public Service Award was bagged by the Mass Contact Programme of Oommen Chandy.And India noticed. Kerala was adjudged the best governed State more than once and in more than one area. And the Government of India noticed. The CM’s website won the webretna award for the best public participation initiative. The elections are around the corner. I shall not venture a guess about the next Chief Minister. But I can boldly say that Oommen Chandy and Achyuta Menon will be bracketed as the best Chief Ministers Kerala ever had.