Most recently, he was the Minister for Forests & Environment, Sports and Cinema in the Government of Kerala beginning May 2011 until his resignation on 1 April 2013. He was elected to the State Legislative Assembly (M.L.A.) from Pathanapuram constituency in Kollam district for the first time in 2001 and has represented the constituency ever since. He was Transport Minister from May 2001 to March 2003. He is the son of R. Balakrishna Pillai, former Minister of Kerala.
In May 2001, Ganesh Kumar was elected to the Kerala Assembly from Pathanapuram on the Kerala Congress (B) ticket. He defeated his opponent, K Prakash Babu, by a 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.) Ganesh Kumar’s father and former Minister, R. Balakrishna Pillai had also been elected from the neighbouring constituency of Kottarakara, which he had represented for several decades. The father-son duo made history by becoming the first such pair to adorn the Kerala Assembly simultaneously.
Ganesh Kumar became Transport Minister in the A K Antony cabinet in May 2001 and went on to give a good account of himself. Though a political novice at that time, he turned around the ailing KSRTC (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) and earned a reputation for providing a clean and efficient administration. In March 2003, he stepped down from his ministerial post to facilitate his father's induction into the Cabinet. The smooth transition took many by surprise.
In the 2006 Assembly elections, Ganesh Kumar was once again elected from Pathanapuram, this time realising an increased victory margin of 11,814 votes and defeating K R Chandramohanan of the CPI. The Left Democratic Front 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. While many of his former ministerial colleagues, including M K Muneer, P K Kunhalikutty and Babu Divakaran, 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 elections, Ganesh Kumar scored a hat-trick win from Pathanapuram with an even bigger margin of 20,402 votes, trouncing his veteran CPM rival, K Rajagopal. He went on to become a Minister for Forests, Sports and Cinema in the Oommen Chandy cabinet in May 2011.He resigned from cabinet due to the domestic violence case filed by his wife Yamini Thankachi on 7 April 2013.In the 2016 Assembly elections, Ganesh Kumar defeated Jagadish of Indian National Congress by a margin of 24562 votes.
Ganesh was married to Dr.Yamini Thankachi on 20 May 1994. Yamini works as a senior research fellow at the Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies & pursuing her Phd in adolescent health.The couple have two sons Adithyan & Devaraman. The couple later divorced due to irreconcilable differences. Ganesh married Bindhu Menon on 24 January 2014 who works as marketing head in Asianet.
Ganesh Kumar made his debut in the 1985 Malayalam film ‘Irakal' directed by KG George. The film was adjudged the second best film for the year. Over the years he made his a mark on the silver screen as a supporting actor, performing a variety of roles during the last two decades. Since 2001 he has been balancing his role as MLA with his acting duties, indicating his unwillingness to give up his first love.
Ganesh Kumar's early films saw him frequently donning the role of villain or anti-social. In Cheppu (1987) he played the rowdy college student to perfection, experimenting with brown sugar, leading an ruly pack, and taunting the noble professor (played by Mohanlal). Eventually the hero beats the daylights out of him, and after some ugly display of blood and tears, the movie comes to a predictable end. In Rakuyilin Ragasadassil, Ganesh Kumar played a wayward guitarist who turns over a new leaf after settling down with a nice girl. This is in stark contrast to the story of the lead pair (his brother and musical genius, played by Mammooty, and the talented danseuse, played by Suhasini) who part ways soon after the birth of their son, only to reunite in a tearful climax. Other films of the eighties where Ganesh made minor appearances include Sukhamodevi (1986), Sarvakalasala (1987), Bhoomiyile Rajakkanmaar (1987), Mukthi (1988), and Devadas (1989).
During the nineties, Ganesh Kumar played notable supporting roles in various films.
The current decade saw Ganesh Kumar emerge as a significant player on the political scene after his election to the Kerala State Legislative Assembly in 2001, and his accession to the ministerial chair the same year, followed by his dramatic exit in 2003 to accommodate his father and party supremo, R Balakrishna Pillai. His subsequent re-election in 2006, overcoming a Statewide pro-LDF wave, saw him firmly established as a rising star on the political firmament of the State. All this did not deter him from relentlessly pursuing his acting career. However, he seems to have chosen his roles with some measure of caution. Somewhere along the way, Ganesh Kumar abandoned the garb of the villain and took up the mantle of the good Samaritan, perhaps reflecting his societal roles and obligations. He acted in Pilots and Dada Sahib in the year 2000. In Kilichundan Mampazham (2003) he played the heroine's brother Ummer. In Vismayathumbathu (2004) Ganesh Kumar played a medical college professor. He also acted in Photographer (2006), Hello (2007), Chembada (2008) and Veruthe Oru Bharya (2008).
The film 'Lion' starring Dileep and Kavya Madhavan (released in 2005) was inspired by Ganesh Kumar's life. Krishna Kumar (played by Dileep) is the innocent son of an unscrupulous father, struggling to build a political base in the midst of deceit, intrigue and cut-throat competition. His father, quite aptly named Balagangadhara Menon, is a seasoned and corrupt politician, and he has two diabolic sons-in-law to assist him in his dark deeds. How the son grew up to be so virtuous is a total mystery! The film, despite the exaggerated and unrealistic story line was a thorough entertainer and did extremely well at the box office.
In March 2008, Ganesh Kumar was chosen by the Frame Media gallup poll to receive the best actor award for his role in the Amrita TV serial "Aliyanmarum Penganmarum". He went on to win the State Award for Best Television Actor (2007) for his role in the serial "Madhavam" aired on Surya TV.Dr.Harischadra (Doordarshan)
Nammal Thammil (Asianet) as host
Oru Kudayum Kunjipengalum (Doordarshan)
Aliyanmarum penganmarum(Amrita tv)
- Kerala state television awards 2008 -Best actor (Madhavam)
- Frames media awards 2008- Best actor(Aliyanmarum penganmarum)