Veteran freedom fighter, eminent lawyer and one of the early leaders of the BJP in Kerala, K Ayyappan Pillai died in Thiruvananthapuram at the age of 107 years, family sources said on Wednesday, January 5. He was not keeping well for some time due to age-related ailments and was under treatment for some health issues at a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, they said.
A prominent personality in the socio-cultural arena of the state capital for several decades and a public figure commanding respect across party lines, Pillai was one of the senior most members of the bar associations in the country. The centenarian was also one of the first councillors of the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation.
An ardent admirer of the 'Father of the Nation", Mahatma Gandhi, he had actively participated in the Quit India movement. It was as per the advise of the Mahatma that Pillai ventured into public service in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore at a tender age.
A supporter of Travancore State Congress, formed under the local chapter of Indian National Congress in 1938, State Congress leaders assigned him to present people's grievances before the royal administration on many occasions.
He had acted as a mediator between the royal administration and Congress when many of its leaders were jailed immediately after Independence, when the then diwan C P Ramaswamy Iyer propped up the idea of 'independent Travancore'.
Pillai later moved to Praja Socialist Party and then to the BJP, in which he served as the vice-president for some time.
Pillai had been in news some years ago as a person who had never failed to exercise his democratic right in any of the elections after Independence.
Pillai, in an interview to PTI earlier, had said his first vote was cast on February 1948 to select representatives to the Constituent Assembly of the 'responsible government' in Tranvancore. This Assembly was later given powers of a Legislative Assembly based on the request of leaders.
"I cast my first vote at a polling station, set up at a military camp of the Travancore State Force at Pangode here. I also worked as a polling agent then," he had said adding that he had since then voted in all the polls held.
They include the first election after the formation of Travancore-Cochin state, the first Parliament election in the country in 1951-52, the first state election in united Kerala in 1957, after amalgamation of Travancore-Cochin with Malabar, which was part of composite Madras state.
Though he contested in the BJP ticket from Thiruvananthapuram during 1980s, he could not win.
Condoling his death, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said besides being a prominent socio-political activist, Pillai also made his mark as an eminent lawyer.
BJP state president K Surendran, in his condolence message, remembered Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called Pillai over phone during the time of the lockdown last year.