With Ananth Kumar’s Death, Who Will Be K’taka’s Next Power Broker?

Ananth Kumar’s demise has raised three big questions.

4 min read
Ananth Kumar passed away on 12 November. 

What next after HN Ananth Kumar’s death? This was a question ignored by the leaders of the BJP and the Opposition, who were grieving the death of a politician respected across the party lines. But after he was laid to rest on Tuesday, the political parties are finally getting around to address the elephant in the room.

Ananth Kumar was a six-time parliamentarian from Bengaluru south, a seat the Opposition couldn’t win even after fielding famous entrepreneur Nandan Nilekani in 2014. For the Karnataka BJP, Ananth Kumar was an effective link between the party’s central and state unit, and most importantly, he had enormous influence and was a lobbyist for Karnataka’s interest in New Delhi – a job for which he went beyond party lines.

So, there are three big questions for which the parties will be looking for answers in the coming days. Will fortunes change in Bengaluru south constituency? Who will step into Ananth Kumar’s role as the buffer between New Delhi and Bengaluru, for the BJP? And who will champion Karnataka’s cause at the nation’s capital?

The Bengaluru South Constituency

Ananth Kumar with his wife Tejashwini.
Ananth Kumar with his wife Tejashwini.
(Photo: PTI)

In 1996, when the BJP decided not to give their sitting MP Venkatagiri Gowda a ticket, many eyebrows were raised. Later, when Ananth Kumar, a debutant, was given the job on winning the seat, many within the party were skeptical. But the rest as they say was history.

From 1996 to 2018, Anant Kumar held the Bengaluru south seat, defeating former chief minister’s widow Varalakshmi Gundu Rao, entrepreneur Nandan Nilekani and a young Congress leader Krishna Byre Gowda among others.

After his death, at the BJP headquarters in Malleshwaram, Ananth Kumar’s wife Tejashwini has been projected as his obvious replacement. Tejashwini, who has wide public reach through her non-profit organisation Adamya Chetana, which provided mid-day meals, however never showed any interest in politics in the past.

For the Congress- JD(S) coalition, Ananth Kumar’s death provides an opportunity. Bengaluru South has a large Brahmin base and Ananth Kumar, a Brahmin, enjoyed the support of this voter base. The Congress, which had recently elevated Dinesh Gundurao, a Brahmin, as their party state president, will be looking to field a Brahmin candidate in the upcoming elections.

However, another camp within the Congress believe that the coalition with the JD(S) provides an opportunity to break the Brahmin dominance in the region.

“If you look Bengaluru South’s (constituency) history, before Ananth Kumar, the BJP candidate who won the seat was Vokkaliga (a dominant caste in Karnataka). After Brahmins, Bengaluru South has a large Vokkaliga population,” pointed out a senior Congress leader.

As the JD(S) enjoys the support of the Vokkaliga community and the minorities in the constituency had historically supported the Congress party, the coalition stands a chance to win the seat combining these two vote banks, he argued.

Karnataka BJP’s Face in New Delhi

With Ananth Kumar’s Death, Who Will Be K’taka’s Next Power Broker?
(Photo: iStock)

While BS Yeddyurappa handled the state affairs for the BJP, Ananth Kumar was the face for the party in New Delhi. Ananth Kumar who had a good rapport with New Delhi, was a crucial link between the party’s central leadership and state unit.

Anant Kumar Hegde, the BJP parliamentarian from coastal Karnataka is touted as a potential candidate for the filling this vacant role. Over the past few years, Anant Kumar has been gaining popularity in both Karnataka and New Delhi. Despite his strong communal views, he was a surprise choice as the minister for state in the Modi government.

However, there are other senior leaders like DV Sadananda Gowda and Shobha Karandlaje, who are contenders for a national role as well. Anant Kumar Hegde’s rising popularity, however, may work against these two.

The Influence Peddler in New Delhi

When matters of Karnataka’s interest were at stake, the leaders of the state have worked together in the past, going beyond party politics, may it be the Cauvery water dispute or the getting the government funds for development. Even for the Congress and JD(S) chief minister, Ananth Kumar was an ally in the New Delhi for matters concerning Karnataka. His good rapport with leaders from all parties, made the task even easier.

The question of who will fill those shoes is a tough one, say leaders. There have not been many senior leaders from Karnataka, who have close contacts with the government at the Centre and good relations across parties.

According to observers, the citizens will have to wait and watch for the rise of regional leader from Karnataka to take on the task which has no strong contenders vying for it at present.

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