Tha Pandian, CPI leader close to Jayalalithaa and Rajiv Gandhi, dies at 88

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Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
February 27, 2021 12:22:47 am

Tha Pandian

Veteran Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Tha Pandian died at a Chennai hospital on Friday morning. He was 88.

One of the most prominent orators of his generation, Pandian was also active in trade union works in Tamil Nadu as well as Delhi. Over the last few years, the CPI leader had been undergoing treatment for renal problems but though wheelchair-bound, he was still active in politics, holding his last public meeting as recently as on February 18 in Madurai.

The former Lok Sabha member was hospitalised on Wednesday after his health deteriorated and was on life support for two days before succumbing.

Though a senior CPI member, Pandian was known for his camaraderie with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. His proximity to AIADMK leadership in particular had often triggered controversies and criticism from within Left circles at a time when both the CPI and CPI(M) were AIADMK allies.

In 1991, Pandian, then a candidate of the Porur parliamentary constituency, was touring Tamil Nadu with Rajiv Gandhi when a suicide bomber assassinated the former PM. Pandian had been severely injured in the explosion, recalling to The Indian Express in late 2018 that he was pierced by over 100 pellets and nails in the blast.

“Lying half-conscious, I thought a cracker had misfired. As I was shifted to hospital in Chennai, I had no idea Rajiv was killed,” Pandian had said.

Despite the trauma of the incident, Pandian would demand the release of the seven convicts in the assassination case, writing to Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit in October 2018 — a month after the state government had recommended the release of all seven convicts.

“Releasing these people offers an opportunity for India and (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi to show the world how they reformed convicts in such a high-profile case. Those who are wise can do that,” he had said.

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