In an era when politics is dominated by caste and communal politics, where tickets to parliamentary and state elections are largely distributed based largely on shrewd caste arithmetic and not on merit, a few politicians give a lie to that theory put forth by learned poll pundits and psephologists. They get past the winning post catapulted by the sheer charisma of their persona coupled with their commitment to an ideal or an ideology. A few such leaders who rose to prominence and power , without dominant caste backing and who had a pervasive influence on our state’s political landscape readily come to mind. Gundu Rao , Ramakrishna Hegde and Devraj Urs to name a few. And to that illustrious phalanx of leaders Ananth Kumar’s name can be added.
I first met Ananth Kumar in late 1980s when I was a farmer in Hassan my home district. I had just taken premature release from the Army and he invited me to join the BJP and he won me over, with his compelling and persuasive charm to head the party in Hassan as its President.
Though I was much senior to him in age and was cynical about politics he was young he must have been 29 or 30 he was passionate and shone with a fervent zeal to build a strong BJP in the state, which had hardly any presence in the state and zero presence in Hassan, and that captivated me. I got to see him from close quarters. He was the Secretary of the State BJP and he had no other life.
He burned with a passionate flame and was consumed by the ideology of the party. He was a brilliant strategist and possessed great organisational abilities. In the early days, before the five star culture took over , he often came by bus to Hassan and stayed at my house a few times as was the practise and culture of all party functionaries in those days.
It will not be an exaggeration to say without taking away credit for others like BB Shivappa and Yeddyurappa and a few other stalwarts of the party that Ananth Kumar single-handedly built BJP brick by brick and the Party would never have reared its head in Karnataka and risen to such dizzying heights had it not been for his indefatigable energy and perseverance.
As he grew in stature and power, winning the elections an incredible six times on the trot with a meteoric rise to Cabinet Post under Vajpayee, he was blinded probably by arrogance and power as is not uncommon in politics, beset by rivalry with the other party supremo Yeddyurappa, and they compromised on the values of the party because of political compulsions to stay in power and both Ananth Kumar and the Party suffered the ‘clean image ‘ which was his and his party’s armour.
I once told him, when the party was routed and Yeddyurappa his rival in the party with whom he had deep differences had lost the elections and formed his own party , that it was an opportune time to leave Delhi and return to Karnataka and build the party again, which was in a shambles, and start work once more as he had done earlier and lead it to become the Chief Minister of the state.
But often life has its own logic and he was sucked into politics at the Centre. His premature death, when he had so much to accomplish, will leave a big vacuum in Karnataka politics but the Party
must be indebted to him for his lasting legacy and contribution. His life must energise the Party workers to build on what he has left behind and bring back the glory that Ananth Kumar dreamed of as an young BJP leader decades ago. That will be a lasting tribute to him.
He will be missed by many, cutting across party and ideological divides as he had an endearing personality.
Note from Kannada.Club :
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