Thiruvananthapuram: At age 91, K.R. Gowri is still
itching to contest Kerala's assembly elections. Chief Minister V.S.
Achuthanandan is 87 but is not ready to call it a day. And there
are many over 75 years of age who are eager to battle it out,
surprising friends and foes alike.
Welcome to God's own country where age is no bar in politics --
perhaps more than any other place in India.
As Kerala inches towards the April 13 poll to pick a 140-member
house, there are plenty of familiar faces who have been in the
thick of it all for decades.
Leading the pack is Gowri, India's oldest woman politician who has
contested all the assembly elections in Kerala since the first one
in 1957. She will be a candidate of her party JSS this time too.
In her long political career, she was a minister in the state's
first Communist regime of 1957. She joined the Communist Party of
India-Marxist (CPI-M) in 1964. When she was sacked three decades
later, she allied with her long-time enemy, the Congress.
For a politician who has lost only two elections (1977 and 2006),
Gowri's supporters are confident she will be back in the
legislature -- as part of the Congress-led United Democratic Front
Achuthanandan, who remains an athletic figure despite his age, is
certain to contest as the CPI-M cannot afford to remove him.
Then comes 78-year-old Minister for Local Self Government Paloly
Mohammed Kutty of the CPI-M. Although he wants to opt out, his
party feels replacing him would be difficult in the
Muslim-dominated Malappuram district.
K.M. Mani, another 78-year-old, is the longest serving legislator
in Kerala, having won every election since 1967. As head of the
Kerala Congress (Mani), he is certain to contest the Pala seat
which he has always represented.
M.V. Raghavan, another former Marxist who has thrown his lot with
the Congress, is 77. But despite failing health, he announced he
will contest -- if his party requests. For the former minister,
age is no issue.
Labour Minister P.K. Gurudasan is a first-time legislator at age
75. A champion of the trade union movement, it remains to be seen
if he will be allowed to retire.
The 75-year-old seven-time legislator Aryadan Mohammed is the
oldest Congress leader in the assembly, where he has been the
guiding force for the opposition ranks.
Although he has had a bypass surgery, it is almost certain he will
be given one more chance to contest from his home constituency of
Nilambur in Malappuram.
These are not the only politicians in Kerala who lived to ripe old
Former chief minister K. Karunakaran, who died last year, was
92-year-old. E.M.S. Namboodiripad, who headed the first Communist
ministry of Kerala and led the CPI-M for years, was 89 when he
died in 1998.
G.M. Banatwala of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) was 74
when he breathed his last in 2008. Another IUML veteran, P.S.M.S.
Thangal, died in 2009 -- at age 73.
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