E. M. S. Namboodiripad

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E. M. S. Namboodiripad
1st Chief Minister of Kerala
In office
6 March 1967 – 1 November 1969
GovernorBhagwan Sahay
V. Viswanathan
Preceded byPresident's rule
Succeeded byC. Achutha Menon
In office
5 April 1957 – 31 July 1959
GovernorP.S. Rao (acting)
Burgula Ramakrishna Rao
Preceded byOffice Established
Succeeded byPattom Thanu Pillai
General Secretary of Communist Party of India
In office
29 April 1962 – 11 April 1964
Preceded byAjoy Ghosh
Succeeded byChandra Rajeswara Rao
General Secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist)
In office
8 April 1978 – 9 January 1992
Preceded byP. Sundarayya
Succeeded byHarkishan Singh Surjeet
Personal details
Born(1909-06-13)13 June 1909
Perinthalmanna, Madras Presidency, British India
(Present day Malappuram district, Kerala, India)
Died19 March 1998(1998-03-19) (aged 88)
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Political partyCommunist Party of India (Marxist) (from 1964),
Communist Party of India (before 1964),
SpouseArya Antharjanam (1937–1998)[1]
Alma materSt. Thomas College, Thrissur
Known forCo-founder of Communist Party of India (Marxist)
WebsiteGovernment of Kerala

Elamkulam Manakkal Sankaran Namboodiripad (13 June 1909 – 19 March 1998), popularly known by his initials 'E. M. S.' was an Indian communist politician and theorist, who served as the first Chief Minister of Kerala in 1957–1959 and then again in 1967–1969. As a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI), he became the first non-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) (CPI(M)).

As chief minister, EMS 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 CPI(M), 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.[3]

Early life[edit]

Elamkulam Manakkal Sankaran Namboodiripad was born on 13 June 1909, as the fourth son of Parameswaran Namboodiripad and Vishnudatha Antharjanam, at Elamkulam, situated on the banks of Thuthapuzha River, in Perinthalmanna taluk of the present Malappuram district into a prominent Malayali Nambudiri Brahmin family. His two elder brothers died before he was born, and the third brother was intellectually disabled. He lost his father when he was five.

During 1921 Malabar rebellion he moved to Irinjalakuda as the belligerent attacked his house. In his early years, he was a close friend of Sr. P.M. Mathew. 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 organization of progressive Namboothiri youth.

Namboodiripad graduated from St. Thomas College, Thrissur. During his college days, he was deeply associated with the Indian National Congress and the Indian independence movement. It is said he would walk 5–8 km to hear the firebrand Cochin politician V.J Mathai speak.[4]

Namboodiripad was well known for his stammer.[5] When asked if he always stammered, he would reply, "No, only when I speak."[6]


EMS in late 1940's

In 1934, he was one of the founders of Congress Socialist Party, a socialist wing within the Indian National Congress, and elected as its All India Joint Secretary from 1934 to 1940. He edited the Malayalam newspaper Prabhatham which was the organ of the Congress Socialist Party in Kerala.[7] During this period, he was also elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly (1939).

He remained committed to socialist ideals, and his compassion towards the working class led him to join the Communist movement. The Indian government considered him to be one of the founders of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Kerala, forcing him to go into hiding. During the 1962 Sino-Indian war, he was among 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 was the leader of the Kerala state committee of CPI(M). He served as a member of the Central Committee and the Politburo of the CPI(M) until his death in 1998. EMS became general secretary in 1977, a designation he held until 1992. A Marxist scholar, he influenced the development of Kerala, of which he was the first chief minister.

Election to state government[edit]

Swearing-in ceremony of Namboodiripad as first Chief Minister of Kerala, April 1957

Kerala Assembly Election Results

Election Year Party Constituency Result
Kerala Legislative Assembly 1957 CPI Nileshwaram Won
1960 Pattambi Won
1965 Pattambi Won
1967 CPI(M) Pattambi Won
1970 Pattambi Won
1977 Alathur Won

A Communist-led government under E. M. S. Namboodiripad resulted from the first elections for the new Kerala Legislative Assembly in 1957, making him the first communist leader in India to head a popularly elected government.[8][9] It was the second ever Communist government to be democratically elected, after Communist success in the 1945 elections in the Republic of San Marino, a microstate in Europe.[10][11][12][13]) On 5 April 1957 he was appointed as the first chief minister of Kerala. His government introduced the Land Reform Ordinance and Education Bill. In 1958, a period of anticommunist protest, the Vimochana Samaram, began in response to the bills. The central government of India responded in 1959 by invoking Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, suspending state government and imposing President's rule. Initially, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was hesitant to dismiss a democratically elected government, but he was convinced by his daughter Indira Gandhi.[14][15] Involvement by the Central Intelligence Agency's in the ouster has been long suspected. Declassified CIA documents show that the establishment of communist state governments in India concerned them and "preventing additional Keralas became an important argument for augmenting U.S. assistance to India".[16] According to the biography of former US Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, "the election results rang alarm bells in Washington".[17][18]

EMS with Romanian President Nicolae Ceauşescu in 1979.

Namboodiripad became the Chief Minister of Kerala for the second time in 1967 as the leader of a seven-party coalition (Saptakakshi Munnani) which included the CPI and Muslim League. Soon after becoming Chief Minister again, on 31 January 1968 he inaugurated a mechanized coir factory called Floorco in Pozhikkara, Paravur. This time Namboodiripad's tenure lasted for two and a half years, and the government fell on 24 October 1969 due to internal conflicts within the constituent parties.

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

As the head of ministries in the Kerala State Assembly[edit]

E. M. S. has led 2 ministries in Kerala.

Details of the Ministries led by E. M. S. Namboodiripad
Sl no. Ministry Date formed Date dissolved Remarks
1 First E. M. S. Namboodiripad ministry 5 April 1957 31 July 1959 Dismissed under Article 356 in the aftermath of the so-called Liberation Struggle [19]
2 Second E. M. S. Namboodiripad ministry 6 March 1967 1 November 1969 Tendered resignation as a result of internal dissensions and subsequent loss of majority.[20]

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

During the 1962 Sino-Indian war, other parties portrayed left-wing parties as pro-China, since both were Communist. Namboodiripad stated that the left was focused on solving the border dispute through talks.[21]

Association with Progressive Movement for Arts and Letters[edit]

Namboodiripad, Kesari Balakrishna Pillai, Joseph Mundassery, M. P. Paul and K. Damodaran were architects of "JeevalSahitya Prastanam", renamed Purogamana Sahitya Prastanam (Progressive Association for Arts and Letters). Though the party considered Kesari one of the visionaries of the Progressive Movement for Arts and Letters in Kerala, serious differences of opinion emerged between full-time Communist Party activists and other personalities, namely Kesari and Mundassery. In this context, Namboodiripad famously accused Kesari of being a "petit-bourgeois intellectual", an appellation he retracted. Namboodiripad 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

Despite his age and failing health, Namboodiripad was still active in political and social fields. He actively campaigned during the 1998 general election. Soon after the results were declared, he contracted pneumonia, and was admitted to the Cosmopolitan hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, where he died at 3:40 p.m. (IST) on 19 March 1998, aged 88.[22] This was barely hours after he had dictated two articles for Deshabhimani, a CPI (M) daily, and replies to a few letters.[23]

The state government declared a seven-day mourning. His body was draped in the CPI (M) flag and was taken to AKG Centre in the city where members of his family paid their respects, before it was taken to Durbar Hall and was kept for viewing, where members of the public, and party leaders and workers paid their respects. Thousands of people joined the funeral procession and he was cremated with full state honours in Thycaud electric crematorium in Thiruvananthapuram.[23]

The President of India K. R. Narayanan condoled his death and stated: "A scholar, historian and journalist, he was above all an educator of the people as well as their leader. Unremittingly, for the last several decades, he analysed the socio-political scene from the firm-rootedness of his intellectual position and enriched Indian political thought to his very last days." Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee recalled that Namboodiripad had brought to politics a sense of commitment and purpose and that he was a champion of the cause of the working classes and the downtrodden.[23]

Three more deaths occurred in his family within five years after his death, starting with his daughter-in-law Dr. Yamuna in August 2001, and later followed by his wife Arya Antharjanam in January 2002 and elder son E.M. Sreedharan in November 2002.


EMS was married to Arya Antharjanam and had two sons – E. M. Sreedharan and E. M. Sasi – and two daughters – E. M. Malathy and E. M. Radha. His grandson (Sreedharan's son) Sujith Shankar is an actor.


He was a writer and author of several literary works and his book on the history of Kerala is notable.[21][24]

In popular culture[edit]

In the 2014 film Vasanthathinte Kanal Vazhikalil, Sudheesh reprises the role of Namboodiripad.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "EMS' wife passes away". The Times of India. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  2. ^ "E.M. Sreedharan dead". The Hindu. 15 November 2002. Retrieved 6 June 2018.[dead link]
  3. ^ Singh, Kuldip (1 April 1998). "Obituary: E. M. S. Namboodiripad". The Independent. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Resurrecting the Legend of Vettath Mathai". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  5. ^ K. M. Tampi (17 May 2001). "A colourful personality fades out from the Kerala scene". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 6 May 2003.
  6. ^ Smita Mitra and John Mary (14 March 2011). "Streaming Syllables". Outlook India.
  7. ^ History of Mass Media (PDF). University of Calicut. pp. 15–16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 October 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2023.
  8. ^ Olle Törnquist (1991). "Communists and democracy: Two Indian cases and one debate" (PDF). Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. 23 (2). Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars: 63–76. doi:10.1080/14672715.1991.10413152. ISSN 0007-4810. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 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.
  9. ^ Sarina Singh; Amy Karafin; Anirban Mahapatra (1 September 2009). South India. Lonely Planet. ISBN 978-1-74179-155-6. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  10. ^ K.G. Kumar (12 April 2007). "50 years of development". The Hindu. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  11. ^ Manali Desai (27 November 2006). State Formation and Radical Democracy in India. Taylor & Francis. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-203-96774-4. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  12. ^ Madan Gopal Chitkara; Baṃśī Rāma Śarmā (1 January 1997). Indian Republic: Issues and Perspective. APH Publishing. p. 134. ISBN 978-81-7024-836-1. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Moynihan, Dangerous Place, 41
  15. ^ Godbole, Public Accountability and Transparency: The Imperatives of Good Governance, 84.
  16. ^ "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955–1957, South Asia, Volume VIII – Office of the Historian". history.state.gov. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  17. ^ Nair, Naveen (28 June 2007). "How CIA ousted Left govt in Kerala". IBN Live. Archived from the original on 11 February 2011. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  18. ^ Schaffer, Ellsworth Bunker: Global Troubleshooter, Vietnam Hawk, 67
  19. ^ "Vimochana Samaram". First Ministry. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  20. ^ "Kerala chronicles: When a coalition of 7 political parties came together only to fall apart". Live Mint. 19 June 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  21. ^ a b BHASKAR, B. R. P. (16 November 2004). "Book Review: Namboodiripad's writings". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  22. ^ "E M S Namboodiripad dead". Rediff.com. 19 March 1998. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  23. ^ a b c Krishnakumar, R. (4–17 April 1998). "Farewell to EMS". Frontline. Vol. 15, no. 7. Archived from the original on 19 February 2001. Retrieved 30 March 2024.
  24. ^ Ramachandra Guha, India after Gandhi, p 294
  25. ^ Nagarajan, Saraswathy (13 November 2014). "Ode to a brave patriot". The Hindu.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Chief Minister of Kerala
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief Minister of Kerala
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Succeeded by