Bengaluru: H.N. Ananth Kumar, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Union Minister for Chemicals, Fertilisers and Parliamentary Affairs, who died in Bengaluru early this morning, represented Bengaluru South Constituency in Lok Sabha for six terms (sixth term is currently running). An astute politician, he was the BJP’s bulwark, handling tough and tricky situations for the party both at the State and National-level.
Known for his political adroitness, Ananth Kumar, gregarious with strong political instincts, had managed to be in the inner circle of the central leadership of the BJP— be it during the heydays of Atal Bihari Vajpayee or L.K. Advani and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His name was synonymous with the BJP for over 40 years.
A staunch RSS ideologue; a hard-boiled organisation man; Bengaluru’s “most loved” MP and the first person to speak in Kannada in the United Nations (UN) are some of the connotations associated with Ananth Kumar. He won the 15th Lok Sabha election from Bengaluru South by defeating IT Czar Nandan Nilekani.
Ananth Kumar was perhaps the sole MP from Karnataka who became a Union Minister three times and the only other person apart from former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and Lok Sabha Opposition Leader Mallikarjuna Kharge to remain in national political limelight till the end.
With little or no community support, Ananth Kumar carved his own space in the national political arena and displayed his political grit to remain in active politics.
Born in a middle class Brahmin family on July 22, 1959, Ananth Kumar graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from K.S. Arts College in Hubballi, affiliated to Karnatak University, and later completed his law degree (LLB) from JSS Law College, University of Mysore. His parents were Narayan Shastri, a Railway employee and Girija N. Shastri.
His ambitious attitude and shrewd political sense propelled him on to the fast track of political growth. He played a key role during the Emergency period as part of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), opposing Indira Gandhi regime, and was incarcerated. He became the National Secretary of BJP at the age of 36. He was one of the youngest Members of Parliament (MP) elected from Bangalore South in 1996, at the age of 37, and never looked back. He continued to represent the Constituency, without a single loss, for five terms (sixth term running now).
In 1998, he was inducted into the Union Cabinet headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the Minister for Civil Aviation and was instrumental in the signing of the MoU for the Bengaluru International Airport. Ananth Kumar was the youngest Cabinet Minister in the Vajpayee Cabinet.
In 2004, with the NDA out of power, he became the National General Secretary of the BJP and held that post ever since. During the UPA rule, he was perhaps the second-in-command to BJP co-founder L.K. Advani and then Party President Rajnath Singh. At the same time, he was the party in-charge of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh and contributed to the party’s victory in both the State’s respective Assembly elections.
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ananth Kumar adapted himself to the “new style” of functioning despite being identified from the Advani camp and became a key player in the Modi Cabinet. During the Cabinet reshuffle, he was given the responsibility of Parliamentary Affairs which proved vital to display his political astuteness when negotiating the recent no-confidence motion moved against the Modi government.
However, Ananth Kumar’s brownie points in political life can be seen in the passing of the historic Goods and Services Tax (GST) during the midnight launch at the Central Hall of the Parliament, despite the BJP not having a majority in Rajya Sabha.
His ability to forge consensus across all parties, get the Bill passed in both the Houses of the Parliament, get more than 50% of States to endorse the same within 3 weeks and finally, support the Finance Ministry in launching this on 1st July 2017, put him into an extraordinaire position in national politics.
He was widely credited for implementing Neem-Coated Urea and setting up of Jan Aushadhi Kendras with focus on affordable quality healthcare.
Delhi face of Karnataka
While being the all important member of the BJP’s Parliamentary Board, Ananth Kumar was often regarded as the “Delhi face” of the Karnataka BJP and also for the State government who could be counted upon for taking issues concerning Karnataka.
He was known to have had politically hostile relationship with State BJP President B.S. Yeddyurappa on occasions and often faced accusations of meddling too much in Karnataka affairs, when the Lingayat strongman was at the helm of affairs in the State as its Chief Minister.
Often ready with a smile and a sharp retort, Ananth Kumar was politically canny and seen by many as an important influencer. His past-times included sight-seeing and playing with his children.
He was loved by the people of Bangalore South for his genuine actions and profound dedication for the betterment of the Constituency. By representing the voice of the common people in Karnataka, he earned himself the distinction of being the default voice of Karnataka and Bengaluru in Parliament.
Ananth Kumar, married to Dr. Tejaswini, has two daughters Aishwarya and Vijetha. He was the Chief Patron of Adamya Chetana, an NGO involved in social work. Adamya Chetana is the second largest NGO after ISKCON in providing mid-day meals in Karnataka and other parts of the country.