Hailing from a poor toddy tapper's family, the 72-year-old CPI(M) leader belongs to the politically dominant Thiyya community like his party rival Achuthanandan, who is an Ezhava from South Kerala.
Popularly known as 'Pinarayi', Vijayan is a party politburo member and perhaps the only communist leader in recent years to have had a complete control over the party for 16 years till he stepped down from the post of state secretary last year.
A man of few words, he proved his organisational capability in the state during this period. He had a short stint as the state's power Minister during 1996-1998.    

The cloud of a graft case in connection with awarding of contract to a Canadian company SNC-Lavalin for modernisation of three hydel projects during that period haunted him with his rivals using it to target him. Vijayan has always maintained that it was a politically motivated case and there was no wrong doing.
While his critics described him as a leader "with no smile on his face, and the most feared politician in Kerala", his party rivals have often accused him of deviating from the party line. During his rule as state secretary, the infighting in the party between Vijayan and his bete noire Achuthanandan came to the fore.
His elevation to the Chief Minister's chair is also seen as a victory in the bitter power struggle with Achuthanandan, a popular leader who campaigned extensively during the Assembly election and was in the race for the top post.
Vijayan was suspended from the politburo in 2007 along with Achuthanandan after the two openly criticised each other through the media. Later they were reinstated in the politburo.

However, Achuthanandan was again dropped from the highest party body for breaching party discipline.Vijayan proved his mettle as an able administrator during his short stint as power minister in the LDF ministry headed by late EK Nayanar during the period 1996-1998.
During his tenure, the state witnessed a giant leap in power generation and distribution capacities due to the productive measures taken by him as a minister.
Apart from the SNC-Lavalin case, the murder of RMP leader TP Chandrasekharan, a former CPI(M) leader, at Onjiyam in Kozhikode in 2012, when he was the party state secretary, dented Vijayan's image.

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