Kerala Congress (B) chairman and former minister R Balakrishna Pillai passed away at a private hospital in his hometown Kottarakkara on Monday morning due to age-related ailments, his family said. He was 86.
Born in a wealthy family in Kottarakkara, Pillai entered politics during his student days. He was a member of the Students Federation before joining the Congress. He was a member of the AICC from 1958 to 1964. Having been elected to the Assembly in 1960 from the Pathanapuram seat at the age of 25, Pillai quit the Congress in 1964 and formed the Kerala Congress along with senior leader K M George.
Pillai was the founder general secretary of the Kerala Congress. He won the election from his home constituency Kottarakara in 1965, but was defeated in the next two polls in 1967 and 1970.
Pillai was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1971 from the Mavelikara constituency. He was a minister for several years in various ministries headed by C Achutha Menon, K Karunakaran, E K Nayanar and A K Antony.
Pillai's over six-decade-long political career saw many ups and downs. He had to resign from the ministry for his speech in the 1980s in which he had called for agitation on the lines of the militancy in Punjab against the central government for ignoring Kerala's development needs.
He was the first minister in Kerala who was sentenced to jail for corruption. The Supreme Court had in February 2011 sentenced Pillai and two others to one year imprisonment for allegedly abusing their positions in the award of a contract for the Idamalayar hydroelectric power project during his tenure as power minister from 1982-1985 in the K Karunakaran ministry.
From 2017 onwards, he had been serving as the chairman of the Kerala State Welfare Corporation for Forward Communities, with cabinet rank. Pillai is survived by his three children. His son Ganesh Kumar, who is also a former minister, was re-elected to the Kerala Assembly as an LDF candidate from his family bastion Pathanapuram.