Bengaluru: R. Ashoka, who as a student leader grabbed eyeballs and served imprisonment along with BJP patriarch L.K. Advani during the dark days of Emergency and later rose to become the Deputy Chief Minister of the State is all set to take over the mantle as Leader of Opposition in Legislative Assembly.
The five-decade long relentless struggle and experience in public life has catapulted Ashoka to the key post in Karnataka Legislature, that had generated heated debate for lying vacant even six months after the new Government came to power in the State in May 2023.
As an MLA for 26 years, 66-year-old Ashoka is a blend of rare qualities like-being affable with all, with no enemies and easily mingling with people. He currently represents Padmanabhanagar Constituency in the Assembly and has emerged as an undefeated leader for having made it to the Assembly for consecutive seven terms.
Born on July 1, 1957 to Ramaiah and Anjanamma couple of Jalahalli, Bengaluru, Ashoka came under the influence of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in his childhood. As a student leader, he soon came into notice and was a Kabaddi champion during his days in Vishweshwarapuram College, Bengaluru, from where he obtained a degree in science.
Ashoka gained a foothold in politics, especially after he came into contact with tall BJP leaders like Advani and several others, when they were incarcerated at Bangalore Central Prisons during the struggle against Emergency imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi between 1975 and 77. They were kept behind bars for a month.
In the year 1995, Ashoka was made BJP Bengaluru Unit President when he launched a struggle against the State Government. During the by-elections held for the Legislative Assembly in 1997, Ashoka made a successful debut from Uttarahalli Constituency (that ceases to exist now), the size of which was the biggest in the whole country. Since then there was no looking back for Ashoka who went on to win the subsequent polls held in 1999 and 2004 from the same Constituency.
Following the delimitation of the Constituencies, Uttarahalli Constituency represented by Ashoka for three times was abolished and Ashoka had to shift to Padmanabhanagar Constituency in 2008 elections. He continued his winning streak here too and has been consistently emerging victorious in the elections held in the year 2013, 2018 and in May 2023, for seven times in a row.
Madilu Kit for newborns
For the first time, Ashoka became a Cabinet Minister during BJP-Janata Dal (Secular) Coalition Government in 2006-07 and was allocated Health and Family Welfare portfolio. By implementing a new scheme called ‘Madilu Kit’, Ashoka ensured that the newborns belonging to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families get a healthy cover. Besides, he gave the much-needed fillip to the system by paying surprise visits to hospitals and also made efforts to check the menace of quacks at the rural side.
When Ashoka became a Minister again during the tenure of Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa from 2008 to 10 and held portfolios like that of Transport and Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, many pro-people initiatives were taken up. The Transport Department opened doors towards modernisation with new buses added to the fleet along with redevelopment of bus stations, with a hi-tech touch.
During the year 2010-12, he also got the additional responsibility as Home Minister and implemented a people friendly Police system, besides taking measures to ensure law and order and peace in the State.
When Jagadish Shettar became the Chief Minister in 2012-13, Ashoka was elevated to the post of Deputy Chief Minister, but continued to handle the portfolios of Home and Transport Departments. He played a key role in the party winning maximum seats in 2010 and 2015 Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) elections.
Administration at doorsteps
When Yediyurappa returned as Chief Minister in 2019 and was succeeded by Basavaraj Bommai in 2021, Ashoka was the Revenue Minister. By devising a novel programme called- Jilladhikarigala Nade Halli Kade (Deputy Commissioners’ walk towards villages), Ashoka bridged the gap between Revenue Department and villages. Under the programme, Ashoka stayed overnight at the villages and made a bid to find solutions on the spot to their grievances.
Likewise, he succeeded in redressing many grievances and also launched a system to reach various pensions under Social Security Schemes to disabled persons, senior citizens and widows at their doorstep.
By building Mini Vidhana Soudhas at Taluk level and earmarking sites for the purpose, Ashoka streamlined the administrative machinery. By omitting Sections 79/A and 79/B under Karnataka Land Reforms Act, Ashoka made the buying of agricultural lands easy even for non-agriculturists, so that the interested can venture into farming activities. By reducing Registration and Stamp Duties, the State exchequer saw enormous revenue, with an overwhelming response from property buyers.
Distribution of title deeds
As a Revenue Minister, he also created a record by arranging the distribution of title deeds of houses to over 50,000 beneficiaries at one go at the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Malakhed village in Sedam taluk, Kalaburagi district.
As the Vice-Chairman of State Disaster Management Committee, Ashoka strived to provide adequate compensation to those affected during natural calamities. He had also played a key role during COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, by reaching the medical kits to the affected lot.
The heart-touching moment was when Ashoka conducted the mass immersion of ashes of COVID victims, who had no relatives to conduct the ritual, at River Cauvery in Mandya district.