The one CM who could

EMS Namboodiripad, the first Non-Congress Chief Minister of an Indian state, Kerala, passed away in 1998. His long experiments with land reforms, significant opposition to Communist rule in his state, and the 1962 China war would compromise his governance.
EMS Namboodiripad; Source: Public Domain

EMS Namboodiripad; Source: Public Domain

At that time, they said, nobody could defeat the Congress. It still had a strong base from the nationalist movement, it retained its veteran campaigners and politicians, and it would most definitely have a better grassroots organisation than any other.

Thus it became a shocker when the Communist Party of India won the 1957 state assembly elections, the first time for a Non-Congress party to do so, and EMS Namboodiripad became its chief minister, that everyone was left wondering how he was able to do it.

Namboodiripad was also a member of the Congress back in his youth, and he would form the Congress Socialist Party within the Congress in 1934. Remaining committed to socialist ideas, he would also be drawn to the CPI as the Socialist Party was forced to merge with the Congress.

At that time, around the world, it was believed that Communists would come to power (if ever) on a revolutionary basis - by overthrowing an elected government. But Namboodiripad contested, and became one of the first Communist governments to actually come to power in the Indian state of Kerala not by force, but by sheer support of the populace - participating inside elected governance.

Anti-government struggles hardened in the state, as a Liberation Struggle was declared, and the government was forced to impose Article 356 of the Constitution, dismissing the government due to various disturbances.

He would also be elected in 1967 for a second time, but this time, he would face internal divisions, disbanding the majority of the party at the house.

His break with mainstream politics came in 1962, when in the Sino-Indian war, he and a few communists would often be accused of arguing in support of China, and would be heavily persecuted in response. As they formed the CPI(M), they would be persecuted throughout the nation for charges of treason.

Namboodiripad would pass away in 1998, after having left behind a legacy of long electoral fights and uphill battles against a system he sought to overcome.


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