Former Kerala CM Oommen Chandy dead at 79; PM Modi, Congress leaders mourn his passing

Former Kerala Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy died after suffering from a prolonged illness at Chinmaya Hospital in Bengaluru at 4.25 am on Tuesday. He was 79.

The two-time former Congress Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who completed 50 years as a MLA, was the most popular face of Congress in Kerala, representing his hometown of Puthupally in Kottayam district since 1970.
The two-time former Congress Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who completed 50 years as a MLA, was the most popular face of Congress in Kerala, representing his hometown of Puthupally in Kottayam district since 1970. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@INCIndia

His son Chandy Oommen confirmed his father's demise on a Facebook post, saying, "Appa has passed away."

The former Chief Minister has been undergoing medical treatment in Bengaluru for the last several months.

He is survived by his wife, Mariamma Ummen, daughters Achu Oommen and Maria Oommen, and son Chandy Oommen.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed sadness over the death of the senior Indian politician and tweeted: " In the passing away of Shri Oommen Chandy Ji, we have lost a humble and dedicated leader who devoted his life to public service and worked towards the progress of Kerala. I recall my various interactions with him, particularly when we both served as Chief Ministers of our respective states, and later when I moved to Delhi. My thoughts are with his family and supporters in this sorrowful hour. May his soul rest in peace."

The Indian National Congress said, "Deeply saddened by the passing of former Kerala CM and esteemed Congress leader, Oommen Chandy. A stalwart in politics, his contributions to Kerala's progress and development will always be remembered. A true statesman, he leaves behind a legacy that will inspire generations. Our heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones during this difficult time. May his soul rest in eternal peace."

Congress Party president Mallikarjun Kharge condoled Chandy's demise and paid tributes to the leader, saying he was a staunch Congressman who stood tall as a leader of the masses.

"His unwavering commitment and visionary leadership left an indelible mark on Kerala's progress and the nation's political landscape. He will be remembered for his dedication and service to the people. Heartfelt condolences to the family and supporters," he tweeted.

Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh said Chandy was an extraordinary personality and a true mass leader.

"Kerala's political arena has indeed lost a giant. Oommen Chandy was a true friend of the masses, and he served them well over the long 53 years with integrity and honor," said George Abraham, vice-chair of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA.

OC's last visit to the USA - 2019
Oomen Chandy (r2nd from right) with IOC USA vice-chair George Abraham (2ndd from left) in USA in 2019. Photo courtesy: IOC USA

"I was fortunate to get to know him from my Balajana Sakhyam days in Kerala in the 60s and retained a long-standing friendship between him and the family. I was involved with his earlier visits to the United States and had fond memories of accompanying him to various events and personalities that included the inauguration of the 'Indian Overseas Congress' in 1998 that was held in New York," he added.

The two-time former Congress Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who completed 50 years as a MLA, was the most popular face of Congress in Kerala, representing his hometown of Puthupally in Kottayam district since 1970.

He also served as Congress Working Committee (CWC) member and All India Congress Committee (AICC) Incharge of Andhra Pradesh.

Chandy was the unit president of KSU (Kerala Students Union) at St George High School, Puthupally, and the State President of the organisation during 1967-69.

He was elected president of the State Youth Congress in 1970.

Chandy completed his pre university course from CMS College, Kottayam, and his BA Economics from St Berchmans College, Changanassery. He took a bachelor's degree in law (LLB) from Government Law College, Ernakulam.

He was the Minister for Labour from April 11, 1977, to April 25, 1977, in the first K. Karunakaran Ministry and continued holding the same portfolio in the succeeding first AK Antony Ministry till October 27, 1978.

He was in charge of the home portfolio in the second K Karunakaran Ministry from December 28, 1981 to March 17, 1982. Again, he was sworn in as a minister in the fourth K Karunakaran Ministry on July 2, 1991. He was in charge of Finance Portfolio and resigned from the cabinet on June 22, 1994.

In 2004, following the resignation of AK Antony as Chief Minister due to Congress party's poor performance in Lok Sabha elections and factional politics, Chandy became his successor for a short duration (August 2004 to May 2006).

Chandy was the Opposition leader in the 12th Kerala Legislative Assembly. Under his leadership, UDF marked victories in the Lok Sabha Election 2009, gaining 16 out of 20 parliament constituencies in Kerala, and the Local Body Election in 2010. In the history of Kerala politics, it's the first time that the UDF got an upper hand in local body elections.

Chandy secured a slender margin in the 2011 assembly election and became the Chief Minister for the second time. Congress-led UDF candidates won in 72 seats against 68 for the LDF (Left Democratic Front).

Meanwhile, the Kerala Government declared a holiday on Tuesday and will observe three days of state mourning in view of the demise of the two time former Congress Chief Minister.

In a message, Kerala Chief Secretary Dr V Venu said, "As a mark of respect to the departed soul, all State Government offices, educational institutions, including professional colleges, State Public Sector Undertakings, Statutory bodies, Autonomous institutions, and all institutions that are coming under the purview of the Negotiable Instruments Act, throughout the State, shall remain closed on Tuesday."

"Three days of state mourning will be observed throughout the State starting July 18, 2023. The National Flag will be flown at half-mast on all Government buildings throughout the State during the period."