October 09, 2022

An Invaluable Leader, A Brother

Pinarayi Vijayan

IT’S unthinkable that Comrade Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has departed from our midst. It causes deep pain.  He wasn’t just like a brother, there was real brotherhood between us. We both chose to tread the same path.

His concern for the Party was above everything else even under acute illness. He thought about how to handle the attacks against the Party till his last days. He insisted on his decision to voluntarily step down from the Party secretaryship when he felt he was unable to discharge its full time responsibilities.

Comrade Kodiyeri attended Party meetings and led from the front on organisational and policy matters even while the illness had taken a debilitating turn. He dedicated himself to the Party in spite of immense bodily pain. He showed extraordinary courage in fighting the disease. To the queries from the press about his illness he was resolute ‘would rather face it than grieve’. His method was to unequivocally face the challenges. It was a life which fought both the political challenges and illness with a steely resolve.

Balakrishnan played an active role in organising students and was involved in local level activities even in his high school days. His political life was a confluence of courage, gentleness and ideological clarity. He was among those Communists who defended communal harmony during the Thalassery riots.

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan became the SFI state secretary in 1973. It was a period in which SFI faced with the worst persecution and victimisation in its history. Kodiyeri's leadership was able to transform SFI into an active organisational force even in rural Kerala in adverse conditions when freedom and democracy were deeply compromised.

Comrade Kodiyeri Balakrishnan was the student movement's valuable contribution to the progressive revolutionary movement. He was an admixture of sternness and ideological clarity on Party matters. Even during his student organisation days, he was able to intervene clearly and lead comrades to the right consciousness, be it organisational matters or ideological issues.

One of the first spontaneous protest demonstrations in Thalassery against Emergency was under his leadership as well. He was arrested and had to undergo brutal repression inside the police lock-up. We both were arrested at the same time. We slept on adjacent cement beds in the 8th block of the Kannur Central Jail. I was very weak after suffering the police brutality. Balakrishnan helped me with brotherly affection. It revealed the depth and meaning of comradeship. EK Imbichi Bava, VV Dakshinamurthy, MP Veerendra Kumar and Bafaki Thangal, among others, were there with us in jail. Kodiyeri turned those prison days into days of learning.

Undoubtedly, Kodiyeri was an invaluable leader the communist movement received from the land of Comrade CH Kanaran, an organiser par excellence. Between 1990-95, as Kannur district secretary, he led the Party in the district through turbulent times. Special mention should be made of the leadership role played by Kodiyeri as secretary in keeping the Party strong against the threats and challenges like Koothuparamba firing, KV Sudheesh's martyrdom etc.

It did not take long for Balakrishnan to take care of the entire affairs of the Party in Kerala and become equally loved by his Party comrades across the state when he rose to the position of a member of the state secretariat. Whether it was at the organisational level, in the legislative assembly, or administrative leadership as a minister, he was able to intervene and gain recognition.

The Party was faced with many issues and challenges while he was discharging his role as state secretariat member and secretary later. He showed immense capability in crisis situations with his calm interventions. While dealing tough with the enemies of the Party, he stuck to his calm and whole hearted manner of intervening in issues of common concern. He never deviated from Party stances while maintaining warm relations with everyone.

Kodiyeri played a stellar role in equipping the Party organisation to such levels in which it could lead the CPI(M) led Left Democratic Front for a historic continuous second term in government. His was a life steeled through struggles. Even from his early days of education he went through innumerable struggles, arrests and brutal repression in lock-ups. Kodiyeri stands tall with those leaders who contributed their lives to the Party. Uncompromising ideological stance, steadfast loyalty to the Party, always sticking to collective functioning and the resolve to keep a well oiled Party organisational machinery were all glaring qualities in Kodiyeri for the generations to learn.

We both worked together. The agony of losing a brother is unexplainable. We were categorical in giving him the best treatment possible for his illness. But it quickly grew into an incurable state. The worst has happened suddenly in spite of hoping against it. But Comrade Kodiyeri won’t leave from our midst. His loving presence will remain in the hearts of the people.