He was called the Maveli minister. Mahabali was the mythical king of the Malayali imagination who ensured that none of his subjects went hungry. All through his political life, E. Chandrasekharan Nair, who joined the CPI in 1952 and first became a legislator in the Kerala assembly in 1957, worked to end feudalism and its patronage systems. Nair, who died aged 89 in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday, was a rare communist politician whose exceptional legacy as an administrator will outlive his record as a legislator — he was elected seven times to the Kerala assembly.
Nair was thrice minister in Left Democratic Front governments in Kerala in the 1980s and ’90s and he handled the food and civil supplies department, besides other portfolios, in all three ministries. As minister, he transformed the public distribution system into an instrument to intervene in the market and control food prices. Parallel to the ration system, he introduced fair price shops and festival markets to regulate prices that used to shoot up during Onam, Christmas etc in the 1980s. Later, he introduced Maveli Stores to intervene in the larger consumer market as well which radically altered Kerala’s consumer market: Price control had political ramifications since the state imported most of its essentials and consumer goods from other states. Nair also made a remarkable contribution to Kerala’s cooperative sector, where he showed that banks could mobilise funds on a large scale and productively intervene in the rural economy. As tourism minister, he directed the rise of Kerala as a top tourism destination. He shunned dogma and recognised that liberal democracy offered many avenues for radical transformation of society.
Nair took up writing after he retired from active politics in 2001. His stand-out contribution was the study, Hindumatham, Hindutvam, which revealed his scholarship in Sanskrit, and Hindu religious texts like the Upanishads. An intensely political work, it sought to delineate Hinduism, the religion, from Hindutva, the political ideology.