Bengaluru: Union Minister and senior BJP leader, H.N. Ananth Kumar, who breathed his last early Monday morning, not only managed to hold his own till the last in the deeply caste-ridden politics of Karnataka, but also had friends across the political spectrum.
A master strategist, who outdid present state BJP chief, B.S. Yeddyurappa on this count every time, he was accepted by everyone not only from his own party and but also the opposition, albeit grudgingly in the case of the latter.
A Brahmin from the Mulakanadu sub-sect, Mr Kumar contested his first election at a very young age, in the mid-nineties and did not look back thereafter, winning the Lok Sabha polls six consecutive times. While his critics claimed he struck a deal with the Congress to ensure his victory, it is highly unlikely that he could have pulled this off every election. On moving to Delhi, he became part of the inner circle of the then Loh Purush of the BJP, L.K. Advani and emulated the latter's style, learning from him to strategise elections.
When the Janata Parivar showed signs of disintegration in 2004, particularly the group associated with the late Ramakrishna Hegde, he swung into action and as state BJP president, got many prize catches for it, including Socialists like S. Bangarappa. While Bangarappa walked out of the party soon afterwards, several of Hegde’s followers, who were baptised by Kumar, stayed back.
Many in the party acknowledge his abilities as a strategist as the BJP, which until then had won merely 30 to 40 seats in Karnataka, suddenly got a bonanza of 79 seats in the 2004 assembly polls, forcing a fractured verdict on the state. His strength lay in bringing leaders of different castes and those who were popular into the party.
In fact, no opposition leader ever accused Kumar of doing an Operation Lotus like they have with Mr Yeddyurappa, because, there was no 'trading' involved when inducting leaders at the time. His proximity to senior leaders like S.M. Krishna, who was with the Congress party then, attracted the wrath of many BJP workers, who pilloried him saying he was working in his own business interests.
But in reality, he had a similar friendship with the Gowda family too, which also attracted suspicion with some claiming that he had provided the evidence that landed Mr. Yeddyurappa behind bars for a while. But the allegation remains just that an allegation.
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