On the morning of July 18, 2023, Kerala met with the somber news of the passing of its two-time Chief Minister and veteran Congress leader, Oommen Chandy. At the age of 79, the statesman took his last breath at a private hospital in Bengaluru, leaving behind a legacy of compassion, leadership, and a remarkable five-decade-long political career.
His son, Congress leader Chandy Oommen, in a Facebook post at 4.30 am, announced the death of Chandy, who had been undergoing treatment for cancer since 2019.
The mortal remains of Chandy will be flown to Thiruvananthapuram, where his body will be kept at the Congress State Committee office and later at the Darbar hall of the Secretariat for people to pay their homage. His funeral will be held on Thursday at Puthuppally in Kottayam.
A BELOVED LEADER REMEMBERED
Oommen Chandy’s political journey began when he was elected to the Legislative Assembly from the Puthupally constituency in Kottayam district during the 1970s. This marked the start of his influential role in Congress politics in Kerala. Throughout the following 53 years, he remained steadfast in serving the people of Puthupally, never losing their trust and support.
Serving as Kerala’s Chief Minister from 2004 to 2006 and then again from 2011 to 2016, Oommen Chandy’s leadership left an indelible mark on the state’s political landscape. Even during the tumultuous times of bickerings and defections within the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) opposition, Chandy’s affability and astute guidance kept the coalition intact.
A VISIONARY WITH EMPATHY
Oommen Chandy’s tenure as Chief Minister was marked by numerous achievements and projects that aimed to propel Kerala’s development. From infrastructure projects like Vizhinjam port, metro rail, Sabarimala master plan, to the visionary mass contact programme that brought him closer to the people, he displayed a unique blend of strategy, empathy, and diplomacy.
During his mass contact programme, he personally met thousands of individuals, hearing their grievances and providing immediate relief, thereby garnering praise for his approachable and compassionate demeanor. His commitment to public service was recognized globally when the United Nations honored him with the Global Award for Public Service in 2013.
CHALLENGES AND RESILIENCE
However, no political journey is without its trials and tribulations. Chandy’s second tenure as Chief Minister was marred by various controversies, including the infamous solar scandal and bar bribery cases. Nevertheless, he navigated through these challenges with unwavering composure, ensuring the stability of his government and the UDF.
A BITTER-SWEET REFLECTION
Despite the LDF’s return to power in 2016, Oommen Chandy remained hopeful about his potential as an inspiring and transformative Chief Minister of Kerala had the UDF secured a second term. His commitment to the people of Kerala was unwavering, and he always embraced transparency in governance, evident in the public access to his office through a webcam.
A FOND FAREWELL
The passing of Oommen Chandy leaves a void in Kerala’s political landscape and the hearts of countless individuals whose lives he touched. Survived by his wife Mariamma and children Maria Oommen, Chandy Oommen, and Achu Oommen, his legacy will endure as a beacon of hope and compassion for generations to come.
Political leaders, including Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and Kerala Congress President K Sudhakaran, expressed their grief at Chandy’s demise. His loss is deeply felt, but the memories of his dedicated service and enduring leadership will forever resonate within the souls of the people he served with love and sincerity.