Oommen Chandy (1943-2023) was an Indian politician and statesman and a veteran leader of the Indian National Congress who served as the 10th Chief Minister of Kerala for two terms 2004-2006 and 2011-2016. He was the only Indian Chief Minister to receive an award for public service from the United Nations. Oommen represented the Puthuppally constituency in the Kerala Legislative Assembly since 1970, making him the longest-serving MLA in the Kerela Legislative Assembly. Oommen Chandy was appointed as the General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) for Andhra Pradesh in 2018. He was the President of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) of the Kottayam district committee and the Vice President of the All India Youth Wing of the INTUC. He was the President of various trade union organizations affiliated with the INTUC. In 2023, Oommen Chandy passed away while undergoing treatment for cancer in Bengaluru.
Oommen Chandy was born on Sunday, 31 October 1943 (age 79 years; at the time of death) in Puthuppally, Kingdom of Travancore, British India (now Kottayam district, Kerala, India). He studied at St. George Govt. V. H. S. S. school in Puthuppally, Kottayam, Kerala. He did a pre-university course at CMS College Kottayam, Kerala. Oommen pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Economics at St. Berchmans College in Changanassery, Kerala. He holds a Bachelor of Law degree from the Government Law College, Ernakulam in Kerala.
Hair Colour: Grey
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name is K. O. Chandy (deceased), and his mother’s name is Baby Chandy (deceased).
Oommen Chandy has a younger brother named Alex V. Chandy.
Wife & Children
Oommen Chandy got married to Mariamma Oommen on 30 May 1977. He is survived by three children, a son, Chandy Oommen, and two daughters, Maria and Achu.
Oommen Chandy and Mariamma got engaged in 1977 right before the Kerala Legislative Assembly elections. In an interview, Mariamma revealed that Oommen Chandy wrote her first love letter after their marriage was fixed, and two lines in the letter that caught her attention were about elections as Oommen was going to contest in the 1977 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections, which were around the corner. The letter read,
Mariamma added that Chandy was going to contest in the State Legislative Assembly elections for the second time, and it was believed to be a tough contest. Her family and relatives, on the other hand, instilled some fear in her and asked her to pray for Oommen’s win so that she does not get blamed if he fails. Mariamma prayed well and subsequently, Chandy won. Mariamma Oommen further said that when Chandy became a minister, their wedding got delayed because of his busy schedule following which her relatives started speculating that Chandy would call off the wedding; however, Mariamma did not lose her faith in Chandy. On 30 May 1977, Oommen Chandy and Mariamma got married; they invited guests to their wedding through a notice published in a newspaper.
Oommen Chandy followed Christianity.
Puthupally House, Jagathy, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
Oommen Chandy started his political career with the Kerala Students Union (KSU) in 1965. His association with Congress began right after joining the union. He was appointed as the State General Secretary of KSU, a student organization in Kerala that functions as the student wing of the Indian National Congress in the state. In 1967, he served as the State President of the union, and in 1970, he was elected as the president of the State Youth Congress.
Member of Legislative Assembly
Oommen contested and won the 1970 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections from the Puthuppally constituency on an INC ticket, defeating E. M. George of the CPI(M) party with 7,288 votes. He represented the Puthuppally constituency as a member of the Kerala Legislative Assembly for 5 decades; he contested in 1970, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016 and 2021. Oommen won the 1977 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections for the second time by defeating the BLD candidate P. C. Cherian. In 1980, he contested and won the Kerala Legislative Assembly elections for the third time on a ticket from INC-U and defeated the NDP candidate M. R. G. Panicker by a margin of 13,659 votes. In 1982, Chandy went on to win the Kerala Legislative Assembly elections for the fourth time, defeating an ICS candidate, Thomas Rajan, by 15,983 votes. He defeated the CPI(M) candidate V. N. Vasavan in the 1987 and 1991 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections with a margin of 9,164 and 13,811 votes respectively. Chandy was appointed as the convener of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1991. After completing his 25 years in politics in 1995, Oommen Chandy contested and won the Kerala Legislative Assembly elections by 10,155 votes in 1996; his closest rival was the Reji Zacharia of the CPI(M) party. In 2001, he was again elected as the UDF convener. After defeating the CPI(M) candidate Cherian Philip in the 2001 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections by 12,575 votes, Oommen Chandy won the Kerala Legislative Assembly elections for the ninth time in 2006 by a margin of 19,863 votes; his closest rival was Sindhu Joy of the CPI(M) party. He won the 2011 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections by defeating his closest rival Suja Susan George, a candidate of the CPI(M) party, by 33,255 votes following which the Congress’s legislative party unanimously elected him as its leader. Chandy defeated the CPI(M) candidate Jaik C. Thomas in the 2016 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections by a margin of 27,092 votes. On 6 June 2018, he became the General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) for Andhra Pradesh. Oommen Chandy, in the same year, became a member of the Congress Working Committee.
On 11 April 1977, Oommen Chandy was appointed as the Minister for Labour of the Kerala government; he retained the post till 27 October 1978. Chandy served as the Minister for Home for the Government of Kerala from 28 December 1981 till 17 March 1982. He was allotted the Department of Finance of Kerala on 2 July 1991; Chandy continued to serve in this capacity till 22 June 1994.
Chief Minister of Kerala
On 31 August 2004, Oommen Chandy was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Kerala for the first time; he served the post till 12 May 2006.
In 2006, he was elected as the Leader of the Opposition at the Kerala Legislative Assembly. During his leadership, United Democratic Front (UDF) marked victory in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, gaining 16 out of 20 parliament constituencies in Kerala, and in the 2010 Local Body elections; it was the first time that the UDF got the upper hand in the local body elections. On 17 September 2010, Oommen Chandy completed 40 years in politics as a legislator in Kerala. On 18 May 2011, he became the Chief Minister of Kerala for the second time.
He resigned from the post on 20 May 2016 following the defeat of the Congress-led UDF in the Kerala Legislative Assembly election.
First Term as Chief Minister (2004-2006)
After taking charge as the Chief Minister of Kerala on 31 August 2004, Oommen Chandy adopted the motto ‘Athivegam Bahudooram’ (Fast and Far). He sanctioned many schemes for labourers including unemployment allowance and welfare measures. During Chandy’s term as Kerala Chief Minister, more Cochlear implant surgeries were done. The Kerala government adopted the ‘Mruthasanjeevani’ project for promoting deceased organ donation and transplantation in Kerala through which more organ implantation surgeries were done. Working in the education sector, Information Technology was made a compulsory subject for school-level students, making Kerala the first Indian state to do so. On 28 July 2005, Kite Victers (also known as Victers TV), an Indian state-owned free-to-air children’s edutainment television channel which is owned and operated under the Department of General Education and is wholly owned by the Government of Kerala, was inaugurated by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. In 2005, the ‘Hill Highway’ project, a massive highway project that connects the eastern hilly areas of the districts of Kerala, was approved by the first Chandy ministry; the plan for the project was proposed in 1960, but it did not receive much support initially. On 17 January 2005, Oommen Chandy inaugurated the first phase of the Hill Highway project between Kasaragod and Palakkad at a function held in Payyavoor, a village in Kerala.
Second Term as Chief Minister (2011-2016)
The second Chandy ministry adopted the motto ‘Vikasanavum Karuthalum’ (Development and Care). In 2012, the Karunya Benevolent scheme was launched for the cost-free treatment of patients with Cancer, Haemophilia, kidney, and heart diseases.
On 12 September 2012, the ‘Emerging Kerala 2012–Global Connect’ was inaugurated at Kochi, Kerala under Chandy’s ministry.
While serving as the Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy worked majorly on infrastructure and human welfare projects. Some of the infrastructure projects that started during Chandy’s second term as Kerala Chief Minister include the Kannur International Airport in Kannur, the Kochi Metro in Kochi, the Vizhinjam International Seaport at Thiruvananthapuram, and the SmartCity Kochi project in Kochi, Kerala. In 2012, the projects for Thiruvananthapuram Light Metro and Kozhikode Light Metro were approved; the projects proposed a medium-capacity rail system (also known as Light Rapid Transit), which is a rail transport system with a capacity greater than light rail but less than typical heavy-rail rapid transit. In 2013, the Suburban rail project, connecting Thiruvananthapuram with Chengannur near Kottayam, was initiated. Business Standard The Kochi-Mangaluru Natural Gas Pipeline of the Gail Authority of India Limited (GAIL) was commissioned by the second Chandy ministry in 2013. In 2014, Oommen Chandy inaugurated phase 3 of the technology park project ‘Technopark’ in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, making it the largest technology park in the country. During the period from 2011 to 2016, the ‘Taurus Downtown,’ a step to create a world-class business infrastructure in Technopark was commenced. In May 2015, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy inaugurated phase 2 of the information technology park ‘Infopark, Kochi’ in Kochi, Kerala, and during the same period, phase 2 of the construction of ‘InfoPark Thrissur’ was completed. On 15 February 2014, during Oommen’s second term as Kerala Chief Minister, the Government of Kerala-owned IT and technology park ‘Cyberpark Kozhikode’ at Kozhikode, Kerala was formally opened by IT Minister P. K. Kunhalikutty. In January 2016, ‘UL CyberPark,’ the second major IT park was inaugurated in Kozhikode (also known as Calicut) in Kerala. During Chandy’s reign, 12 new Taluks (the administrative divisions below the district), 28 new Municipalities, and the Kannur Municipal Corporation (also called as Corporation of Cannanore and Kannur Corporation) were formed to ensure effective decentralisation and proper utilisation of resources in all regions of the states of Kerala; it was the largest Taluk delimitation in Kerala after 1957. Under the second Chandy ministry, the infrastructure of Kerala was highly developed. Under the Chandy government, many state highways were constructed; in 2014, the Kerala government decided to widen the national highways of the state to 45 meters. The Indian Express During his period, around 227 road bridges worth nearly Rs. 1,600 crores were built across Kerala; moreover, the projects of the Karamana-Kaliyikkavila bypass and Kazhakootam-Karode bypass for Thiruvananthapuram city of Kerala were designated and started. Chandy took an initiative to directly engage with the people of Kerala on 20 April 2011 to address their grievances by organising the ‘Mass Contact Programme.’
Oommen Chandy’s ministry was instrumental in building government medical colleges in those districts of Kerala which did not have them to ensure the presence of public medical colleges in all 14 districts of Kerala. As a part of the project, many new medical colleges were established in 2013 after a gap of 31 years; some hospitals were converted into medical colleges including the General Hospital in Manjeri, Kerala, which was later named as the Government Medical College Hospital, Manjeri. During Oommen’s second term as Kerala Chief Minister, many public institutions were founded in Kerala, which includes the ‘National University of Advanced Legal Studies’ in Kochi (2005), ‘Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University’ in Tirur (2012), ‘APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University’ in Thiruvananthapuram (2014), ‘Indian Institute of Technology Palakkad’ or IIT Palakkad in the Pudussery East (2015), and ‘K. R. Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts’ in Kottayam (2016). Another major step taken by Oommen Chandy’s ministry in the education sector was the inauguration of the ‘Total E-Literacy Programme’ or digital literacy programme that took place at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
One of the major works in the airport infrastructure was the inauguration of the MW solar project by Oommen Chandy at Cochin International Airport in Kerala following which the airport became the world’s first fully solar-powered airport. The Cochin International Airport received many awards including the highest environmental honour instituted by the United Nations ‘Champion of the Earth’ award (2018) and ‘The Best Airport in Asia-Pacific’ (2020) by Airports Council International.
On 12 April 2015, the Kerala Urban Road Transport Corporation (KURTC) was inaugurated at Thevara in Kerala, and on 27 May 2015, the work on the last phase of the Kollam Bypass commenced. Under the second Chandy ministry, the social welfare pensions were doubled, which was one of the various steps taken by Chandy’s government. Other social welfare measures include free rations for the unemployed, houses for homeless people, free rice for those who belonged to the Below Poverty Line (BPL), providing food kits to people during various occasions such as Onam, Ramadan, and Christmas, providing rubber subsidy to ensure a minimum price of Rs. 150 per kg (implemented in 2015), and much more. The ministry further took the decision to prohibit liqueur in the state. On 27 February 2016, Kerala was declared the first complete digital state of India under Oommen Chandy’s ministry.
2013 Kerala Solar Panel Scam
In 2013, business partners and couple Sritha S. Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan were arrested by the Kerala police following corruption charges of their Kochi-based firm, Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions Pvt. Ltd. Reportedly, the couple used to collect investments from businessmen and NRIs, promising to make them partners in the windmill and solar projects; moreover, the accused would flaunt their political connections, especially with the then Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, making their business proposals more appealing to investors. The couple would often produce forged letterheads of the Chief Minister’s office. After further investigation into the case, it was found that the accused had made several calls to the Kerala CM’s staff members including personal assistant Tenni Joppen, additional personal assistant Jikkumon Jacob, and Chandy’s security guard Salim Raj. It was also found that the calls were made to the landline in the Chief Minister’s office and to Joppen’s cellphone, which Oommen often used.
Sexual Allegations Levelled Against Oommen Chandy
While serving out a jail sentence, Sritha Nair wrote a letter dated 19 July 2013 in which she mentioned the then Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and other renowned leaders of the United Democratic Front (UDF) as those who demanded sexual favours in lieu of business contracts of the solar project. Nair added that she was abused at Cliff House, the chief minister’s official residence, on 19 September 2012. Onmanorama According to some sources, Sritha further claimed that she paid a bribe of Rs. 1.90 crores to Chandy in 2012. Outlook In 2018, the Kerala police registered rape cases against Oommen Chandy, AICC general secretary K. C. Venugopal, and others.
The case was handed over to the Crime Branch of the Kerala Police and it was found that there was no evidence to prove Nair’s allegations against Chandy right as the staff of the Cliff House did not recall seeing either Chandy or Nair on the date of the alleged incident at the Cliff House during the investigation. The Judicial Magistrate Court in Perumbavoor sentenced the couple to three years in prison and a fine of Rs. 10,000 each. Chandy, on the other hand, was given a clean chit by the commission, calling it a fabricated case with politically motivated charges. The Financial Express
Vizhinjam Port Corruption
In August 2015, the former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy-led government and the Adani Group signed an agreement for the Vizhinjam International Deepwater Seaport Project. In May 2017, a controversy was heated when the Comptroller and Auditor General released a report, questioning the project’s financials and the manner in which it was rewarded. Two months later, the then Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan appointed a three-member commission under Justice C. N. Ramachandran for investigation. In 2018, the commission gave a clean chit to Congress leader and former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and others and concluded that there were no allegations with specific charges against Chandy and there was no need for further investigation in the case. While talking about giving Chandy a clean chit in an interview, C. N. Ramachandran said,
Nobody came forward with any specific corruption charges against any individual and nobody ventured to give any evidence. When there is no allegation of corruption against anyone, there is no need to investigate corruption against anyone. That is why commission has not found corruption against anyone.” Business Standard
Pattoor Land Case
Following the 2016 Kerala Legislative Assembly election, an FIR was registered by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) alleging irregularities in the construction of an apartment building and the shifting of a sewage pipeline at Pattoor in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Chandy was named the fourth accused, former chief secretary E. K. Bharat Bhushan was the third accused while two former executive engineers of Kerala Water Authority (KWA) and Artech Realtors’ managing director T. S. Ashok were the first, second, and fifth accused respectively. It was claimed that the property belonged to the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) and that Oommen and Bharat committed criminal misconduct by permitting the realtor to shift the KWA sewerage pipeline that passed through the middle of the property to ensure that it does not pose a hindrance to the realtor’s development plans. In February 2018, Justice K. Abraham Mathew quashed the FIR and said that the allegations made in the FIR against Chandy and others were not based on any document or evidence. He added that since the shifting of the sewage pipeline did not cause any pecuniary advantage to the builder, it can be concluded that the actions of the accused did not attract the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Kerala High Court made scathing observations against the then-top vigilance officer Jacob Thomas, who initiated legal action in this case, for preparing the wrong First Information Report (FIR). The Kerala High Court dismissed the case and Oommen Chandy got a clean chit. The court said,
Preconceptions and misconceptions, predictions and predeterminations of a police officer shall not be the basis for registration of a case, especially, for an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act.” Hindustan Times
Palmolein Oil Import Scam
Palmolein Oil Import Scam (also known as Palm Olein Corruption Case and Palm Olein Case) refers to the import of palm olein by the K. Karunakaran-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government of Kerala, India through the Power and Energy Limited company allegedly by illegal means. It was claimed that the Kerala government imported palm olein through the Power and Energy Limited company at an inflated price and at an excessive service charge, violating central and state government procedures. The import orders were signed by the then Kerala Food Secretary P. J. Thomas. Following the investigation of the case, it was found that the order caused a loss of about Rs. 2.32 crores to the public finances after which a vigilance case was filed against K. Karunakaran, P. J. Thomas, and seven others. Oommen Chandy was also named in the case, though he led an internal party campaign launched by many known Congress leaders including A. K. Antony against Karunakaran when the Palm Olein Case was at its peak. K. Karunakaran died in December 2010 following which the court stopped all the proceedings against him. Thomas, on the other hand, was released on bail in 2013. In March 2011, the Palm Olein Corruption Case was reopened and an investigation was held against Oommen Chandy, who was serving as Kerala’s Minister for Finance at that time. After further investigation into the case, it was found that Chandy was not involved in any corruption. On 25 June 2013, the Kerala High Court exonerated Oommen Chandy.
- 1 charge related to Unnatural offences (IPC Section-377)
- 1 charge related to Cheating and dishonesty inducing delivery of property (IPC Section-420)
- 3 charges related to Punishment for Being a member of an unlawful assembly (IPC Section-143)
- 3 charges related to Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object (IPC Section-149)
Cases Where Convicted
- 2 charges related to Punishment for Rioting (IPC Section-147)
- 1 charge related to joining or continuing in unlawful assembly, knowing it has been commanded to disperse (IPC Section-145)
- 1 charge related to Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant (IPC Section-188)
- 1 charge related to Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life (IPC Section-269)
- 1 charge related to Danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation (IPC Section-283)
- 1 charge related to Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention (IPC Section-34)
Awards & Honours
On 27 June 2013, Oommen Chandy was awarded the 2013 United Nations Public Service Award from the Asia-Pacific region for the category “Preventing and Combating Corruption in the Public Service” for his ‘Mass Contact Programme’ initiative, engaging directly with the people of Kerala to address their grievances. The award was presented by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo at a ceremony held at the National Theatre in Manama, Bahrain. The award was based on the theme ‘Transformative e-Government and Innovation: Creating a Better Future for All.’
Assets & Properties
- Cash: Rs. 1,000
- Bank Deposits: Rs. 67,704
- Bonds, Debentures, and Shares in Companies: Rs. 78,960
- Jewellery: Rs. 1,52,000
- Agricultural Land: Rs. 3,41,00,000
- He was known for his calm behaviour, enormous patience, and simplicity. In an interview, Mariamma Oommen talked about Chandy’s unaffected simplicity of nature and said that he was naive just like his mother, Baby Chandy, and he could not say no to anything. Onmanorama
- When it came to food, Oommen Chandy ate whatever was available. Chandy’s wife, Mariamma, talked about his food habit in an interview and revealed that he was not picky when it came to food. She added that he would eat whatever was available even if it was an overripe fruit. Mariamma said,
- Oommen was a spiritual person. In an interview, his daughter Achu talked about this and said that had he not become a politician, he would become a priest. Onmanorama
- Oommen Chandy is largely appreciated for his work as Kerala Chief Minister and his concern towards the people of the state. In an interview, Chandy’s wife, Mariamma, talked about his concern towards the people and constituency and revealed that Chandy was concerned more about the people and constituency than her. Mariamma further gave a reference to the story of ‘Jacob Rachel and Leah’ from the Bible and said that just like the story of Jacob who fell in love with beautiful Rachel, but with a twist of fate, he had to marry Leah, the Puthuppally constituency was Chandy’s Rachel and Mariamma was his Leah. While talking about this in an interview, Mariamma Oommen said,
He is more concerned about the people and the constituency. In Old testament, Jacob falls in love with a beautiful Rachel. he embraces her by the heart. But the turn of fate, jacob has to get married to an unattractive Lia. Puthupally is Oommen Chandy’s Rachel and I am his Lia. We live on with mutual trust and respect. Onmanorama
- A hobbyist named Biju collected badges worn by former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at various events. Biju started collecting badges in 2004 and has a collection of around 2,215 badges. The first badge Biju got was worn by Oommen at an inauguration event during his first term as Chief Minister of Kerala (2004). Biju brought the badge home and pinned it on a calendar, and since then, it became his hobby. All the badges that he has collected are kept in three big bags at his home. Oommen Chandy was amused when Biju went to him with the request to give him all the badges he would wear. Chandy accepted his request and asked his gunman to keep all the badges and hand them over to Biju after the events; those who served as the gunmen to Chandy including Pradeep, Ashokan, Ravi, and Seekumar remembered saving those worn badges for Biju and handing them over to him on Sunday after Chandy’s return to his home in Puthuppally after every event. Onmanorama
- In 2006, Oommen Chandy attended the 35th World Economic Forum held at Davos, Switzerland during which he slipped and fell. He injured his hip and underwent surgery.