Thiruvananthapuram: A central player of the Congress in Kerala for over four decades, 67-year-old Oommen Chandy has played a major role in building the party as a mass force capable of taking on the CPI(M).
Chandy moved to the key spot of United Democratic Front, left vacant by late K Karunakaran and A K Antony when he was chosen Chief Minister for an interim term in 2004-06. He led the coalition as Opposition leader after the UDF's defeat in 2006, enjoying the confidence of all components.
Oommen Chandy sworn in as Kerala chief minister
His first tenure as chief minister was from September 2004 to May 2006 after A K Antony resigned owning moral responsibility for the Congress rout in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
Though KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala's entry in this poll initially sent signals he would throw in his hat in the race, he opted out, paving the way for Chandy's unanimous choice for the tough job of leading the UDF ministry, which has only a two-seat margin in a 140-member house.
Since the 1980s, he had held key portfolios including Finance in various UDF ministries.
Chandy also had to surmount many challenges to consolidate his position in the faction-ridden Congress in Kerala.
His mass appeal and political consistency helped him bounce back to centre stage after being eclipsed for a while by Karunakaran's son K Muraleedharan, who managed to become KPCC president in 2001 with his father's support.
Chandy's clever moves saved the A K Antony ministry of 2001-04 whenever it ran into troubles created by the Karunakaran faction. When Antony quit as Chief Minister, Chandy was unanimously elected CLP leader as other contenders were took weak to pose a credible challenge to him.
He was elected to the Kerala Assembly 10 times in a row from Puthuppally, a sprawling rural segment in Kottayam district.
His affection for his constituents is believed to be so deep that he never misses a chance to be in Puthupally despite his hectic schedule.
Political lore in Kerala has it that Chandy might knock at the doors of any house in Puthupally at anytime without prior intimation. He even named his house in state capital as Puthupally, whose doors are open to people any time.
Chandy's wife Mariamma Oommen is a bank officer and the couple have two daughters and a son.