Bengaluru: Barring a few notable and honourable exceptions in world history, leaders are seldom born. Becoming a leader is a process; they evolve into leaders after trials and tribulations, efforts and attempts; after many failures and then succeed to become leaders. But in some people, leadership qualities are in-born; they only wait for an opportunity to exhibit and demonstrate such qualities.

Two such personalities, who evolved into leaders with intrinsic qualities are BS Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar, popularly called as the bull-couple of Karnataka BJP. Both come from economically humble background from two culturally-distinct districts. While BSY was the son of an agricultural labour from Bhookanakere in Pandavapura taluk of Mandya district, Ananth Kumar was the son of a clerk in railways at Hubbali.

While Yeddyurappa is 76 now, Ananth Kumar – who left this world all too suddenly was just 59, a big gap of 16 years. Age-gap notwithstanding, both worked as a team; proved that they are a perfect combination to take up any assignment and ensured that they succeed. Not that there were no differences between the two; there were 'perceptional' differences due to their capacity to think differently but they were matured and sober enough to sink their differences in the larger interest of the party.

BJP as well as its erstwhile avatar as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, was just a peripheral party in Karnataka. When the BJP won 18 seats in the 1983 Assembly elections, political pundits were flabbergasted; how can a peripheral party win so many seats. The fact was that of the total 18 seats, BJP had won eight seats in the then un-divided Dakshina Kannada district alone.  

But even with these 18 seats, the BJP had remained a cadre-based party. It was still considered as the party of the urban, upper class, upper caste and nothing to do with the dalits, OBCs and farmers. 

It was the ascent of Yeddyurappa as the President of the BJP on February 2, 1988 and appointment of Ananth Kumar as the state general secretary of the party thereafter enabled the BJP to spread its wings – socially as well as geographically. Both burnt midnight oil and launched numerous campaigns pertaining to farmers, dalits and OBCs. The mammoth congregation of 50,000 farmers in September 1988 in Bengaluru shocked BJP’s adversaries and surprised its admirers.

Due to tireless efforts of Yeddyurappa-Ananth Kumar, the BJP won 40 Assembly seats in the 1994 election. But before that, the BJP won four Lok Sabha seats by polling 29.87% of votes in the 1991 elections. From then on, there was no looking back. The BJP won 44 seats in 1999, 79 in 2004 (Ananth Kumar was the president at that time) and 110 in 2008 elections. While Yeddyurappa emerged as mass leader pan Karnataka, Ananth Kumar worked as the brain and spine of the party. He was elected as MP from Bengaluru South for six consecutive terms starting 1996.

Ananth Kumar never discriminated anybody either on the basis of caste or creed or party. In his capacity as Union minister, he was instrumental in getting the metro rail, International airport to the city of Bengaluru. From Jan Aushadhi scheme, neem-coated urea, to reducing the prices of stents and knee-transplant, these pro-people measures will make him remain etched in the psyche of the common man for a long time to come.

By his conduct and behaviour as well as performance both as MP and Union minister, Ananth Kumar proved to be the most authentic and effective voice of Karnataka at the Centre – irrespective of whether the party was in power or not. He made a conscious attempt to learn Hindi and assiduously cultivated friends in the national capital so that his voice is heard in the corridors of power as well as in the media.

But the BJP and ABVP cadre in particular and Sangh Pariwar in general as well as his non-political friends will remember him for his affable character and his ever-smiling attitude because of which he never antagonised anybody and never spoke ill or negative of anybody. Given the deep impact Ananth Kumar has made on the psyche of millions of his friends and admirers, it is extremely difficult for us to believe that he is no more. For me, Ananth Kumar’s death is like wrenching away some part of mine.

*Writer is a senior journalist and associate of Ananth Kumar for the last 37 years