Electricity Employees Federation of India President and former CPM Politburo member Com. E Balanandan passed away on 19-01-2009 after prolonged illness at a private hospital in Ernakulam. E. Balanandan (born June 16, 1924 in Sakthikulangara, Kollam District) was a Communist and actively participated in a number of struggles against anti-people policies of Governments. He has been a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s politburo since 1978.
Balanandan initiated his political career in the Indian National Congress, but he later joined the Communist Party of India, and then the CPI(M). From 1967 to 1977, he was a member of the Kerala legislative assembly. In 1980, he was elected for a four year term to Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s bicameral parliament. He did not get a second term, but was elected to the upper house, Rajya Sabha, in 1988 and 1994.
Balanandan was President of Centre of Indian Trade Unions(CITU). He is the president of the Electricity Employees’ Federation of India (EEFI) and KSEB Workers Association(KSEBWA).
Mr. Balanandan, 84, was hospitalised on 17-01-2009 following respiratory problems and was put on life support. His condition worsened and the death came at 8.45 a.m. His wife and fellow communist Sarojini Balanandan, children and relatives and a host of CPI(M) and CITU leaders were around when the legendary trade unionist breathed his last.
The body was cremated at the CPI(M)'s area committee office at Kalamassery, a Kochi suburb, amid shouts of ‘red salute' by hundreds of CPI(M)-CITU cadres and a gun salute by the police in the evening.
Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, most of his Cabinet colleagues, Speaker K. Radhakrishnan, CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, Polit Bureau members M.K. Pandhe and S. Ramachandran Pillai and a host of senior leaders were present.
A large number of MLAs and MPs, most of the CPI(M) district secretaries and leaders and functionaries of several political parties, trade unions, NGOs, and cultural organisations were also present.
The body was earlier kept for viewing for two hours at Lenin Centre, the CPI(M)'s district committee office. Ministers Paloli Mohammed Kutty and S. Sarma were among the hundreds of people who offered their last respects to Mr. Balanandan. Later, accompanied by several vehicles, the red-flag-laden body was taken to the municipal town hall at Kalamassery for public viewing. A large number of people from all walks of life paid their tribute to the departed leader. Nonagenarian jurist V.R. Krishna Iyer was among those who paid homage.
Mr. Balanandan was elected to the Polit Bureau, the CPI(M)'s supreme party forum, in 1978. He retired from that position in 2005 when cancer restricted his work. He took over the reins of the CITU, one of the largest central trade unions in the country, in 1990, when B.T. Ranadive passed away and stepped down in 2003 because of his health woes.
He had also headed the Electricity Employees Federation of India for many years. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Mukundapuram in 1980 and was a member of the Rajya Sabha for two terms. He was a member of the Kerala Assembly for two terms.
Born at Sakthikulangara in Kollam district in June 1924, Mr. Balanandan had to drop out of school because of his family's poor financial situation. To support the family, he started working as an assistant at his uncle's toddy shop. In 1941, he moved to Kochi to work in an aluminium company and later became an electrician. At the aluminium company, he organised the first trade union.
During those hard times, when World War II was raging, poor wages and unstable employment added to the pathetic conditions of workers in the factories in the Kochi-Aluva region. Mr. Balanandan organised trade unions at many of these factories and led agitations for fair wages.
He joined the Communist Party in 1943 and propagated its ideology among mill and factory workers. In 1957, he was made the Ernakulam district secretary of the AITUC (All-India Trade Union Congress). The same year he married Sarojini, a relative. The couple has three daughters and a son.
In 1964, when the Communist Party split, he sided with the CPI(M). Along with A.K. Gopalan and E.M.S. Namboodiripad, he struggled to build the party and organise working class agitations. He was the third Keralite, after AKG and EMS, to be made a member of the Polit Bureau.
CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, in a condolence message, said that Mr. Balanandan was a great trade unionist and had played a major role in building the CITU.Balanandan rose from the position of an electrical wiring employee to become the national president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, the trade union wing of the CPI (M). He became a legislator in the Kerala Assembly in 1967 and till 1977 he represented the Vadakkekera constituency in Ernakulam district.
In 1980, he became a Lok Sabha member and then moved on to the upper house in 1988. He remained a Rajya Sabha MP till 2000.
Balanandan is survived by his wife Sarojini, a prominent CPM leader, three daughters and a son.His wife and a host of party leaders were present at the hospital, when he breathed his last.