Politician and humanist (1937-2017)

Edappakath Ahamed was born on 29 April 1937, in a wealthy merchant family in Kannur, and after completing his graduation at the Brennen College in Thalassery, went on to complete his Law Degree at the Government Law College in Thiruvananthapuram. After practising in the district court in Thalassery and the Kerala High Court in Kochi for a few years, he also worked as a reporter for a regional daily named Chandrika, where he functioned later as an Executive Director till his death. Later, he plunged into mainstream politics as a member of the Indian Union Muslim League and this set the stage for an active political career that lasted several decades till his death on 1February 2017, after he took ill during the Presidential address to the Joint Session of Parliament.

Ahamed was a sitting member of the Lok Sabha representing the Malappuram constituency in Kerala. The late leader was first elected to the Kerala Legislative Assembly in 1967, and thereafter also won elections to the assembly held in 1977, 1980, 1982 and 1987. He had a very productive stint as the Founder Chairman of the Kerala State Rural Development Board during which a great deal of fillip was given to rural growth and the development of agriculture. Ahamed was also the Executive Chairman of the Kerala Small Scale Industries Development Corporation and Municipal Chairman, Coporation Council in Kannur. His performance as the Industries Minister of Kerala between 1982-1987 was also characterised by an all-round development of the industrial sector and several new greenfield projects were kick started.

Ahamed was elected to the Lower House as many as seven times in 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. So immense was his popularity in his native Kerala that he was successively elected to Parliament and was an MP for 25 years. Ahamed was Minister of State for External Affairs in the Dr. Manmohan Singh Cabinet between 2004 and 2009, and also assumed charge of the Railways portfolio between April 2009 and January 2011; hewas also given additional charge as Minister for HRD (Human Resource Development) between July 2011 and October 2012. In his several stints as a parliamentarian, Ahamed was a member of several parliamentary committees pertaining to External Affairs, Railways, Civil Aviation, Tourism, Public Undertakings, Science & Technology, Environment & Forests etc. He was also nominated as Chairman of the Government Assurance Committee and Co-Chairman of the High Level Monitoring Mechanism between India and Qatar.

Ahamed travelled extensively abroad and was a close confidant of Prime Ministers Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. During the tenure of Indira Gandhi, Ahamed was sent in 1984 as her emissary to the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries. He also performed Haj as many as seven times, out of which on five occasions he was sent as a member of the Government of India’s Haj Goodwill delegation. He played a significant role in improving relations with several foreign countries, and represented the country in the United Nations and the UN Security Council as many as ten times between 1991 and 2014.
He also authored four books in English and Malayalam. Condoning his passing, President Pranab Mukherjee, a long time political associate of Ahamed eulogised him as a tireless campaigner for the welfare of the underprivileged, and observed that his services to the nation will be long remembered. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his tribute touched on his role in deepening the country’s ties with the West Asian countries and lauded his diligence in serving the nation. Ahamed was elected as the President of the Indian Union Muslim League in 2008 and served in the post till his demise. He had a vision of his own in matters of religion and global issues, and endeavoured to get a national identity for the Muslim community, essaying a crucial role as a liberal leader. A soft spoken and cultured politician, whose friendship with the country’s top politicians cut across party lines, Ahamed will be remembered for his long service to society and to the nation.

– C. V. Aravind is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist.