Senior Communist leader and former Tamil Nadu state secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI) D. Pandian died in Chennai on Friday morning due to multiple health problems. A two-time former MP, he was 89 and is survived by two daughters and a son.
Pandian was admitted to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital on Wednesday in an unconscious state with sepsis and hypoglycemia. He was put on life-saving medications and ventilator support. He breathed his last at 10.05 a.m.
Born in Vellaimalaipatti near Usilampatti, Pandian joined the CPI when he was an intermediate student of Alagappa College, Karaikudi, in 1953. He won the students’ union election and later became an English teacher at the college. He was actively involved in the Tamil Nadu Kalai Ilakkiya Perumandram, a literary wing founded by the late Communist leader P. Jeevanandam.
Pandian was an outstanding orator and participated in Kamban Kazhagam functions in Karaikudi, and his talent was spotted by Jeevanandam.
Pandian campaigned in the 1957 Assembly elections under a pseudonym. However, newspapers published his original name and the college principal asked him to resign. He was appreciated by the founder of the college, Alagappa Chettiar, who presented him the works of Marx and Engels, bought in London when he was a student.
When differences of opinion with the CPI political line resulted in disciplinary action against him and senior leader M. Kalyanasundaram, they joined hands with the late Mohit Sen to found the United Communist Party of India (UCPI). Pandian had functioned as the state secretary of the party.
He rejoined the CPI in 2000 and functioned as the state secretary of the party for three terms. As the editor of Janasakthi, the official organ of the CPI, he penned several political articles. He has also authored books and translated Communist literature.
Pandian was to translate the speech of Congress leader and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at the election campaign meeting in Sriperumbudur, where the latter was assassinated in May 1991. Pandian sustained severe injuries in the blast. Initially, police mistakenly included his name in the list of those killed.
“I still carry small pieces of shrapnel in my body. That is a different issue. Now I am speaking up for the Tamils, who are being decimated,” Pandian would say, whenever he was asked about his becoming an aggressive campaigner for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause in the last phase of the civil war in that country.
He was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1989 from the North Madras (now Chennai) constituency. At that time, he was part of the UCPI.
In 1991, in the election held shortly after Gandhi’s assassination, he was once again elected from the same constituency. On both occasions, he contested on the Congress’s Hand symbol, as the UCPI was part of the Congress-led alliance.