The first Communist chief minister of Kerala hailing from truly working class background, 87-year-old Velikkakath Sankaran Achuthanandan has often surprised friends and rivals alike by bouncing back to the centre stage outwitting the machinations of foes to finish him politically.
In both 2006, when he became chief minister, and 2011, Achuthanandan made a dramatic come back into the poll arena to lead the LDF, outsmarting machinations of the rival faction in the Kerala CPI-M led by its state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, mainly on account of his massive popularity.
An "old school Marxist" for those outside the CPI(M), his inner-party rivals has often accused him of being prime source of the long-drawn factional trends in the state unit.
He was twice dropped from the party's top most body Politburo after he became chief minister, for standing up against the ''official faction'' on issues like charge sheeting of Vijayan in connection with a corruption case dating back to the 1990s.
India's senior most Communist leader, Achuthanandan is the only surviving comrade among those who walked out of the undivided CPI to form the CPI(M) after the ideological schism shook Indian Left movement in early 1960s.
After remaining essentially an organisation builder in much of his career holding key posts like the state secretary, what metamorphosed Achuthanandan into a mass leader was his stint as opposition leader during 2001-06.
Silencing his critics, he spearheaded campaigns over a host of issues like sexual exploitation of young girls, corruption in high places and destruction of forests. These campaigns won support of a cross section of socially concerned people like rights activists, green groups and academics.Even after becoming chief minister, Achuthanandan continued to be on the campaign mode sending earth movers to pull down illegal constructions at the hill station Munnar, exposing the lottery mafia, pursuing politically sensitive corruption cases and heading the struggle for a nationwide ban on toxic pesticide endosulfan.
Known for his inimitable gestures, razor-sharp words and unique style of delivery, Achuthanandan is an astute campaigner during the elections, who would turn highly tenacious if his a raw nerve is touched.