E. M. S. Namboodiripad

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E. M. S. Namboodiripad
E. M. S. Namboodiripad.jpg
1st Chief Minister of Kerala
In office
5 April 1957 – 31 July 1959
Preceded by office established
Succeeded by President`s rule
In office
6 March 1967 – 1 November 1969
Preceded by President`s rule
Succeeded by C. Achutha Menon
General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist)
In office
April 8, 1978 – January 9, 1992
Preceded by P. Sundarayya
Succeeded by Harkishan Singh Surjeet
Personal details
Born (1909-06-13)13 June 1909
Perintalmanna, Madras Presidency, British India
Died 19 March 1998(1998-03-19) (aged 88)
Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala
Political party Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Communist Party of India (before 1964)
Spouse(s) Arya Antarjanam
Children Two sons, two daughters
Residence A house rented for him by the Communist party in Kerala's capital, Thiruvanthapuram
Religion Atheism
Source Government of Kerala
EMS with Romanian President Nicolae Ceauşescu in 1979.

Elamkulam Manakkal Sankaran Namboodiripad (13 June 1909 – 19 March 1998), popularly EMS, was an Indian communist politician and theorist, who served as the first Chief Minister of Kerala state in 1957–59 and then again in 1967–69. As a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI), he became the first non-Indian National Congress chief minister in the Indian republic. In 1964, he led a faction of the CPI that broke away to form the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM).

As chief minister, Namboodiripad pioneered radical land and educational reforms in Kerala, which helped it become the country's leader in social indicators. It is largely due to his commitment and guidance that the CPM, of which he was Politburo member and general secretary for 14 years, has become such a domineering political force, playing a vital role in India's new era of coalition politics.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Elamkulam Manakkal Sankaran Namboodiripad was born on 13 June 1909, as the son of Parameswaran Namboodirippad, at Elamkulam, in Perintalmanna taluk of the present Malappuram district into an aristocratic upper-caste Brahmin family. In his early years, he was associated with V. T. Bhattathiripad, M. R. Bhattathiripad and many others in the fight against the casteism and conservatism that existed in the Namboothiri community. He became one of the office bearers of Valluvanadu Yogaskshema Sabha, an organisation of progressive Namboothiri youth. During his college days, he was deeply associated with the Indian National Congress and Indian independence movement.

He was a writer and author of several literary works and his book on the history of Kerala is notable.[2][3] He was well known for his stammer.[4] When asked if he always stammered, he would reply, "No, only when I speak."[5]


In 1934, he was one of the founder leaders of Congress Socialist Party, a socialist wing within the Indian National Congress and was elected as its All India Joint Secretary from 1934 to 1940. During this period he was also elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly (1939).

He remained committed to socialist ideals and his compassion towards the downtrodden working class made him join the ranks of the Communist movement. He was considered to be one of the founders of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Kerala, for which he had to go in hiding for some time. During the 1962 Sino-Indian war, he was among those leaders who aired China's view on the border issue. When the CPI split in 1964, EMS stood with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)). He served as a member of the Central Committee and the Politburo of the CPI(M), before becoming its general secretary in 1977, a designation he held until 1992. He was a member of the party Politburo until his death. An outstanding Marxist scholar whose credentials remain unchallenged even to day, much of the Kerala society's current day advancement owes itself to the insight of this polymath and social genius whose name resonates throughout Kerala, there is no passing day in Kerala without quoting his name or the erstwhile communist ministry headed by him.

Election to state Government[edit]

During his political career, EMS was defeated only once in the public elections, when he lost to K. P. Kuttikrishnan Nair (the founder leader of Trade Union Movement in India) of the Indian National Congress by a huge margin from the Kozhikode constituency. In 1957, EMS led the Communists to victory in the first election for the state government, making him the first communist leader in India to head a popularly elected government.[6] (The first democratically elected communist government in the world came to power in San Marino in 1945.[7][8]) It was also the first time for a regional party anywhere in India to win state elections. On 5 April 1957 he was appointed as the first chief minister of Kerala. His government soon introduced the Land Reform Ordinance and Education Bill. His government was dismissed in 1959 by the Central Government, which invoked the controversial Article 356 of the Indian Constitution following what later became known as 'The Liberation Struggle'.

It is widely believed that it was upon the behest of Indira Gandhi that Nehru who was hesitant to dismiss a democratically elected government took such a disastrous decision. The involvement by Central Intelligence Agency has also been long suspected. A few declassified documents of the CIA clearly show that toppling the first Communist government was top priority for the United States. If the biography of former US Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker is to be believed, the CIA had performed a clandestine operation to topple the first elected Communist government in the world. Bunker's biography quotes: "the election results rang alarm bells in Washington. This apparently involved agency funding for political demonstrations organised by the Congress party and other opposition groups that were designed to create a law and order situation."[9]

He became the Chief Minister of Kerala for the second time in 1967 as the leader of a seven-party coalition including the Muslim League. He wooed the Muslim League by promising them a district of their own, which has been seen as a highly selfish move to make for a communist. This time his tenure lasted for two and a half years and he created a separate district called 'Malappuram' during this term as per prior agreement. Soon after becoming Chief Minister again, on 31 January 1968 he inaugurated Asia's first mechanised coir factory called Floorco in Pozhikkara, Paravur.

EMS was the Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Legislative Assembly from 1960 to 1964 and again from 1970 to 1977. He influenced Kerala society by his vision on decentralisation of power and resources (People's Plan), and the Kerala Literacy Movement. He authored several books in English and Malayalam. Chintha Publication, Kerala has published all his books under the title, 'E M S Sanchika'. He was well known as a journalist as well.

Sino-Indian war and split in the Communist Party[edit]

During the 1962 Sino-Indian war, when other parties were trying to portray left wing parties as pro-China for the Communism factor, he cleared up the stand of the Left and laid stress on the significance of solving the border dispute through talks.[2]

Association with Progressive Movement for Arts and Letters[edit]

EMS, Kesari Balakrishna Pillai, Joseph Mundassery, M. P. Paul and K. Damodaran were architects of 'Jeevat Sahitya Prastanam', which later came to known as Purogamana Sahitya Prastanam (Progressive Association for Arts and Letters). Though Kesari was considered to be one of the visionaries of the Progressive Movement for Arts and Letters in Kerala, serious difference of opinion emerged later between full-time Communist Party activists and other personalities, namely Kesari and Joseph Mundassery. In this context, EMS famously accused Kesari of being a "Petit-Bourgeois intellectual", an appellation he later retracked. EMS also acknowledged some of the earlier misconceptions of the Communist Party with respect to the Progressive Literature and Arts Movement. This debate is known as 'Rupa Bhadrata Vivadam', an important milestone in the growth of Modern Malayalam Literature.


The E.M.S. Memorial Co-operative Hospital in Perinthalmanna

EMS died on 19 March 1998. He was married to Arya Antharjanam and had two sons and two daughters.



  1. ^ Singh, Kuldip (2 April 1998). "Obituary: E. M. S. Namboodiripad". The Independent. Retrieved June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Malayalm (2004). "Book Review: Namboodiripad's writings". The Hindu. Retrieved June 2013. 
  3. ^ Ramachandra Guha, India after Gandhi, p 294
  4. ^ K. M. Tampi (17 May 2001). "A colourful personality fades out from the Kerala scene". The Hindu. 
  5. ^ Smita Mitra and John Mary (14 March 2011). "Streaming Syllables". Outlook India. 
  6. ^ Olle Törnquist (1991). "Communists and democracy: Two Indian cases and one debate". Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars) 23 (2): 63–76. doi:10.1080/14672715.1991.10413152. ISSN 0007-4810. . Page 63 states: "The first democratically elected communist-led government in India actually came to power in 1957 in the southwest-Indian state of Kerala. Two years later this government was undemocratically toppled-by the union government and the Congress-I party with Indira Gandhi in the forefront. But the communists were reelected and led several of the following state governments."
  7. ^ Alan James Mayne (1 January 1999). From Politics Past to Politics Future: An Integrated Analysis of Current and Emergent Paradigms. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-275-96151-0. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  8. ^ K.G. Kumar (12 April 2007). "50 years of development". The Hindu. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "How CIA ousted Left govt in Kerala".

Further reading[edit]

Preceded by
Chief Minister of Kerala
Succeeded by
Pattom Thanupillai
Preceded by
R. Sankar
Chief Minister of Kerala
Succeeded by
C. Achutha Menon