Thiruvananthapuram: A skillful organiser and shrewd strategist with the man-next-door image, 67-year- old Oommen Chandy has been a key player in the Congress in Kerala for over four decades.
Chandy, who is moved to the central spot of the UDF left vacant by late K Karunakaran and A K Antony when he was chosen as chief minister for an interim term in 2004-06. He led the coalition as the opposition leader in the last five years after the defeat in 2006, enjoying the confidence of all its components.
The surprise entry of KPCC president Ramesh Cehennithala as a contestant in the assembly polls and abrupt figuring of his name in connection with decades old palmolein case had put a question mark over his fate.
But as the campaign progressed, senior party leaders sent clear signals that Chandy's leadership is non-negotiable this time round.
The lone Congress leader in the state who has been unfailingly elected to the state assembly from his home turf -- Puthupally in Kottayam -- since 1970, Chandy is a true mass leader who always choose to be in the midst of the people and party workers.
Since the 1970s, he has been a frontline soldier of the anti-Karunakaran axis in the Congress in Kerala and worked hard to build the party a mass political force side-by-side his seniors A K Antony and Vayalar Ravi, drawing inspirations from populist policies initiated by late premier Indira Gandhi after 1969 split in the Congress.
It was this upsurge of the Congress in 1970s that made the party a mighty force in Kerala capable of effectively taking on the cadre-based CPI(M) and the UDF coalition a formidable alternative that returned to power every five years.
Born on October 31, 1943 to Karottu Vallakkalil-Ko Chandy and Baby, Chandy displayed leadership skills since his school days as a participant of the children' forum Balajana Sakhyam floated by leading newspaper house Malayala Manorama.
He ventured into campus politics as an activist of the Congress' student wing KSU during his high school days. Later, he became its state president and sailed into the Youth Congress and the KPCC leadership, choosing whole time political career though he is a law graduate.
Despite being a major player and serving as minister in several UDF governments, Chandy had to wait till 2004 to emerge as chief minister following the resignation of A K Antony owning moral responsibility for the combine's near-washout in 2004 Lok Sbha polls.