Ananth Kumar: staunch RSS man known for political adroitness
Bengaluru: A staunch RSS idealogue and long-time BJP member, Union minister Ananth Kumar was the quintessential organisation man who kept Karnataka and the party as the twin focuses of his career.
The Parliamentary Affairs minister, who passed away early Monday after battling lung cancer for several months at the age of 59, was the first person to speak in Kannada in the UN in October 2012 and was often regarded as the Delhi face of the Karnataka BJP.
Kumar was a six-time member of Parliament from Bangalore South, a constituency that remained his bastion till the very end.
Bengaluru's "most loved" gregarious MP was known for his political adroitness, managing to be in the inner circle of the central leadership of the BJP -- be it during the heyday of Atal Bihari Vajpayee or Narendra Modi now.
He was born to a middle class Brahmin family on July 22, 1959, in Bengaluru to Narayan Shastri, a railway employee, and Girija N Shastry. His early education began under the guidance of his mother who herself was a graduate.
A graduate in Arts and Law, Kumar's journey in public life began due to his association with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a student organisation of the Sangh Pariwar, which he served in various capacities, including state secretary and national secretary.
The strong political instinct was honed early on.
Kumar voiced his protest against the then Indira Gandhi government's imposition of Emergency for which he was sent to jail for about 30 days.
With his steady political growth, his bond with the Sangh, where he was mentored politically, also grew stronger.
Looking to get into mainstream politics, Kumar joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1987, going on to take up the responsibilities of state secretary, state president of the Yuva Morcha, general secretary and national secretary.
Along with state BJP chief Yeddyurappa, Kumar was among the few party leaders who could be credited for the growth of the BJP in Karnataka. They built the party from scratch, paving the way for the installation of the first ever saffron party government in the South.
He was known to have had an often politically hostile relationship with Yeddyurappa and was also accused of meddling too much in Karnataka affairs, when the Lingayat strongman was chief minister of the state.
While being the all important member of the BJP's parliamentary board, Kumar was often regarded as the "Delhi face" of the Karnataka BJP and also for the state government, one who could be depended on to take up issues concerning Karnataka.
Kumar began his parliamentary career when he got elected to Lok Sabha in 1996 from Bangalore South. The climb up the political ladder was swift and steady. In 1998, he joined the Vajpayee cabinet when was just 38, then the "youngest" minister in the team.
He served as Civil Aviation minister and also Minister for Tourism, Sports, Youth Affairs and Culture, Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation.
Kumar, who also held positions in various parliamentary committees, was Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Chemicals and Fertilizers in the Modi-led government after winning the 15th Lok Sabha election from Bangalore South by defeating IT czar Nandan Nilekani.
He was widely credited for implementing the neem coated urea scheme and setting up Jan Aushadhi Kendras with focus on affordable quality health care.
Never an MLA, Kumar came close to trying his luck to become chief minister when the BJP under his presidency emerged as the single largest party in the 2004 assembly polls with 79 MLAs.
But Deve Gowda's JD(S) decided to support the second largest party, the Congress, which had lost power, to form a coalition government under the leadership of Dharm Singh.
Several BJP leaders in Karnataka today, including former BJP state president Prahlad Joshi, owe their political growth to their mentor Kumar.
Kumar reportedly nursed chief ministerial ambitions with his proximity to party's central leadership and building own support base within the party, which threatened Yeddyurappa's supremacy, resulting in rift between both leaders.
Kumar leaves behind his wife Tejaswini and their two daughters, Aishwarya and Vijetha, who were by his side as he breathed his last at the Sri Shankara Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in his Lok Sabha constituency.
His family and he were closely associated in the setting up the hospital. Wife Tejaswini is a member of its board of trustees, along with cricket icon Anil Kumble.
He was chief patron of Adamya Chetana, an NGO involved in social work which he runs along with his wife in the memory of his mother Girija Shastry, who also died of cancer.