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'Kerala Kissinger' passes away

Source: PTI
Last updated on: January 29, 2008 14:25 IST
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Baby John, veteran leader and former all-India general secretary of Revolutionary Socialist Party, died at a private hospital in Kollam in the wee hours on Tuesday following a prolonged illness.

John (88) is survived by wife Annamma, two sons and a daughter.

A key figure in coalition politics of Kerala for several decades, John was known in the state political circles as 'Kerala Kissinger' for his astute abilities to manage political crises at time when the state was passing through unsteady political phases.

He had served as minister handling different portfolios in coalition governments led by the C Achutha Menon, K Karunakaran, A K Antony, E K Nayanar and P K Vasudevan Nair.

His long and eventful career came to an unexpected halt when he suffered a stroke while serving as irrigation minister in the E K Nayanar ministry in mid-1990s. Since then he had been confined to home.

A freedom fighter and trade unionist, John plunged into politics as a student and was arrested several times for participating in agitations. A Congress worker to start with, John was later attracted to leftist ideology and was a founder-member of the RSP in the country.

Born on in 1920 as son of Sebastian John and Mary John at the coastal hamlet Chavara in Kollam district, John honed political skills during his college days in Palyamkottai in Tamil Nadu and later in Kochi.

John's long legislative career began in the early 1950s when he was elected to the Trvancore-Cochin assembly. After the state formation, he was elected to the Kerala assembly from 1960 to 1996, mostly from his home constituency Chavara.

Lean, tall and with drooping mustache, John's had been an image etched in the political memory of Kerala for varied roles he played with great skill and poise from the early 1970s.

He came to the political centre-stage as minister in the government led by CPI stalwart Achutha Menon in which Congress and RSP were partners.

In the political arena of Kerala, John had played the role of strategist and trouble shooter in whichever coalition he was part of. After John fell ill, the party he nurtured had split into several factions, including the one floated by his son and former legislator Shibu Baby John.

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