E Chandrasekharan Nair was born on December 2, 1928 to Meenakshi and Eswara Pillai, a law graduate and politician. Pillai was a member of the Sreemoolam assembly and was active in politics until 1952.
Chandrasekharan Nair’s plunge to politics happened when he was a degree student at the Annamalai University. He was an active member of the Vidyarthi Congress. Back in Kottarakkara, he worked as a teacher at the family-owned school before he joined the first batch of the Government Law College, Ernakulam in 1950.
After enrolling as an advocate, he started practicing at Kottarakkara. He also started working in the Indian Socialist Party. He functioned as the election committee president of party candidate Krishnan Nair in the first general election in 1952.
Later, Chandrasekharan Nair joined the Communist Party of India and successfully contested as a party candidate from Kottarakkara in the first election to the Kerala Legislative Assembly. He was the party candidate in the constituency in 1960 and 1965 too but he failed to make it to the assembly.
He remained with the CPI after the split in 1964. He defeated R Balakrishna Pillai in Kottarakkara in 1967 but resigned in favor of C Achutha Menon who was sworn in chief minister in 1969.
Chandrasekharan Nair was elected to the assembly from Chadayamangalam in 1977 and 1980. Back in Kottarakkara in 1982, he lost to Balakrishna Pillai.
He was later elected from Pathanapuram in 1987 and Karunagappally in 1996.
Chandrasekharan Nair was just 28 years old when he was elected to the first assembly of the newly formed Kerala state in 1959. The young crowd in the treasury benches formed a collective even as they were ridiculed as inexperienced. They were called as “ginger group” after they challenged veterans such as Pattom Thanu Pillai.
Chandrasekharan Nair joined Veliyam Bhargavan, Thoppil Bhasi, N Rajagopalan Nair and P Govinda Pillai in the Xavier’s Hotel Annexe near the secretariat.
The legislators’ hostel was yet to come up. The youngsters worked together as a team, helping each other frame questions and draw up speeches in the assembly.
Chandrasekharan Nair had said that the first assembly was remarkable for the members’ political focus and simple lifestyle.
The legislators had a phone in their room but they had to depend on the hostel’s telephone exchange to make calls. Each of them was required to pay their own bills.
The MLAs had even cooked their own dinner in the legislators’ house, he had said, while flagging the gradual drift to a more luxurious lifestyle.
The Maveli minister
Chandrasekharan Nair had served as an MLA six times, always with the treasury benches. He had served as a minister three times, always in cabinets led by E K Nayanar. He was the minister for food and civil supplies during all the three stints in the cabinet.
He made his debut as a minister in 1980, when he was assigned civil supplies and housing. In 1987, he was the food and civil supplies minister. In 1996 too, he was assigned the food and civil supplies department, in addition to law and tourism.
His prolonged association with the food and civil supplies departments earned him the moniker, ‘Maveli minister’. The Maveli stores and Onam fairs were ideas implemented during his tenure.
The Onam fair was an idea prompted by the plight of the cashew factory workers in Kollam, he had said. The government decided to intervene in the market after workers complained of exploitation by unscrupulous merchants.
The workers were given the Onam bonus on Uthradam day or the day before. The traders in the market somehow got whiff of the allowance and jacked up the prices to exploit the laborers.
Chandrasekharan Nair was aware of the problem but the government had legal limitations to tackle the profiteers. The alternative was a direct market intervention, ensuring all supplies in government stores which remained open until night on Uthradam day.
The success of the Onam fairs encouraged the government to make it a permanent system. Thus was born the Maveli stores which ensured supplies at fair price round the year. The name was apt for the stores. After all, Maveli’s reign was famed for the fairness in trade.
The minister who wouldn’t tour
Chandrasekharan Nair manned the tourism department in 1996, yet the minister refrained from tours abroad. That was the time when Kerala found a pride of place in the tourist map of India.
The minister ably promoted the state from his office in Thiruvananthapuram, not once flying out of the country. His strategy involved advertising Kerala in global media.
Famed cinematographer Santhosh Sivan shot an elegant short film that told the world about ‘God’s Own Country’. International correspondents were invited to Kerala to report on its beauty and hospitality.
The efforts paid off. The National Geographic Traveler magazine picked Kerala as one of the top 50 must-visit destinations. The Kerala Tourism Mart in Kochi in 2000 was another master stroke. Kerala Tourism even won a national award for its activities.
Chandrasekharan Nair also made a mark in the cooperative sector. His work in the cooperative sector was recognized across the political spectrum. He was the president of the state cooperative bank for eight years.
His far-sighted contributions are best exemplified in an investment drive. His work in the field was honored with the Sadanandan Award for the best cooperative worker.
Introduction to footwear
Chandrasekharan Nair had never put on a footwear as a school and college student. He was still barefoot when he reached Thiruvananthapuram as an MLA, until a doctor advised him to consider wearing a footwear.
It was not easy, he later said. He would practice walking with footwear at night on the road in front of the secretariat.
Chandrasekharan Nair had lamented the shift of legislators’ focus. He had shared an anecdote from the initial days of the assembly in which he was scolded by his party workers in Kottarakkara for leaving Thiruvananthapuram to visit a party worker who was mourning his father.
The assembly had just adjourned after a debate on agricultural reforms but Chandrasekharan was in the select committee which was required to deliberate on the proposals.
Those days, party workers did not want their representatives to keep a vigil with them, he had said, contrasting them with the present-day workers who did not mind if the representative attended the assembly or not, as long as he was present in their private functions.