Ganesh Kumar was elected thrice to the Kerala Legislative Assembly from the Pathanapuram constituency in Kollam district. He joined the Malayalam film industry at a young age while he was a B.Com student at the Government Arts College, Trivandrum. In 1985 he made his debut in the film ‘Irakal’ directed by KG George. Since then he has acted in a variety of Malayalam films and television serials. He won the State Television Award (2007) for his role in the Surya TV serial “Madhavam”. In May 2008, he performed a daring fire escape act at Kozhikode for the film ‘Agnisakshiyay.’
Ganesh Kumar is the son of R Balakrishna Pillai, the veteran politician from Kottarakkara who had been elected eight times to the State Assembly and once to the Lok Sabha. Ganesh Kumar initially focused on his film career, but when the situation demanded his active involvement in politics, he was quick to rise to the occasion.
In 2001, Ganesh Kumar was elected to the Kerala Legislative Assembly from Pathanapuram on the Kerala Congress (B) ticket. He wrested the seat from the CPI, defeating his opponent, K Prakash Babu, by a comfortable margin of 9,931 votes. This was the first time in the history of Kerala that an individual from the film industry had been elected to the Assembly. (Earlier, industry titans like Prem Nazir had tasted defeat at the hustings.) It was also the first time that a father and son simultaneously entered the State Assembly. (Balakrishna Pillai had won the Kottarakkara seat.)
Ganesh Kumar donned the ministerial mantle in May 2001, when a court battle stood in the way of his father’s inclusion in the Congress-led UDF (United Democratic Front) cabinet. He became Transport Minister in the A K Antony cabinet and went on to give a good account of himself. Though only 34 years old and a political novice, he turned around the ailing KSRTC (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) in record time and earned a reputation for providing a clean and efficient administration. In March 2003, when Balakrishna Pillai was exonerated by the Supreme Court, Ganesh Kumar stepped down from his ministerial post to facilitate his father’s induction into the Cabinet.
In the 2006 Assembly elections, Ganesh Kumar was once again elected from Pathanapuram, this time with an increased victory margin of 11814 votes, defeating K R Chandramohan of the CPI. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) had made a clean sweep, winning 11 out of 12 seats in Kollam District and a formidable majority in the State Assembly. The Pathanapuram voters, however, stood by Ganesh Kumar, making him the only UDF winner from Kollam District. Though many of his former ministerial colleagues were routed by lesser known opponents, and his illustrious father was also humbled by a CPI(M) debutante, Ganesh Kumar managed to hold his own.
In the 2011 Assembly election, Ganesh Kumar produced a hat-trick win from Pathanapuram, with an increased victory margin of 20402 votes, this time garnering 55.64% of the total votes polled. His opponent, K Rajagopal, was Kollam District Secretary of the CPM.
Ganesh Kumar was a Minister in the UDF Government led by Oommen Chandy from May 2011 to March 2013. His portfolio included Forests, Sports and Cinema and he earned a reputation as an efficient and honest minister. Ganesh Kumar resigned on 1st April 2013 after his wife filed a 498A complaint. Later, following an out of court settlement, the couple filed for divorce by mutual consent and were granted divorce in October 2013.
Ganesh Kumar continues to pursue his acting career, enjoys reading and has diverse interests. He currently anchors the popular TV program Nammal Thammil on Asianet. He has authored two books in Malayalam.