Bengaluru: Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister H.N. Ananth Kumar, who died on Monday, was widely regarded as an able political organiser who helped build the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka to expand the party’s reach in the country’s south.
Along with the party’s state unit president B.S. Yeddyurappa, Union Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda and others, Kumar built the BJP across the southern state into a formidable alternative to the Congress and the Janata Dal.
Kumar’s organizational skills and proficiency in Kannada, Hindi, Marathi and English caught the attention of the party’s top leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, who made him a BJP national General Secretary at a young age.
“Kumar rose from the ranks to the national level in the BJP and the government, first as a student leader and later as an able party organiser,” BJP Karnataka spokesman S. Shantaram told IANS.
He had another ability — winning friends across the political class.
An urban face of the BJP, the 59-year-old Kumar was a six-time parliamentarian from the high-profile Bengaluru South Lok Sabha constituency since 1996.
He became a Union Minister at a young age (37) in the Vajpayee’s governments of 1998-99 and 1999-2004.
Kumar again became a Union Minister in May 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave him the Chemicals and Fertilisers portfolio and, later, the Parliamentary Affairs portfolio.
In 2014, he defeated Congress star candidate and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, who entered the political arena after resigning as Chairman of the state-run Unique Identification Authority of India (UIADA).
Kumar’s tryst with politics began in college days during the 1980s when he was elected as the state and national secretary of the Akhila Bharatiya Vidhya Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Sangh Parivar.
He was associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as an organiser at Hubli-Dharwad in the state’s northwest region before joining the BJP in 1988.
Ananth Kumar was among those who helped the BJP to take power in Karnataka on its own in 2008.
Born into a middle class Brahmin family in Bengaluru on July 22, 1959, Kumar went to school in the city and joined college at Hubli when his father H.N. Narayan Shastry, a railway employee, was transferred to the northwest town about 400 km from here. His mother Girja, was a home maker.
Kumar graduated in Arts from K.S. Arts College and in Law from J.S.S. Law College at Hubli with B.A. and LL.B degrees from Karnataka University in Dharwad.
Kumar’s siblings are younger brother Nand Kumar and younger sister Suhasini.
Kumar was the state president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha and became its national secretary before the 1996 Lok Sabha elections.
He was also the party’s state unit president in 2003 and contributed to making the BJP a powerful opposition after the 2004 elections.