Till 2004, Legislative Assembly election in Nanjangud constituency was a curiously watched battle. It was the arena of archrivals M Mahadev, popularly known as ‘Benki’ Mahadev, and D T Jayakumar, better known as DTJ, for 15 years.
Following the death of Mahadev (75) on Tuesday, a scintillating history, that had almost eroded after the demise of Jayakumar, a few years ago, came to an end.
A native of Hemmaragala in Nanjangud taluk in the then undivided Mysuru district, Mahadev was known for his straight talk and fiery speeches that earned him the prefix ‘Benki’ (Fire).
His political innings began under the leadership of Hejjige Linganna, an influential Lingayat leader then. Mahadev was elected president of Taluk Agricultural Producers Cooperative Marketing Society (TAPCMS) in 1973.
In1983, Mahadev got a boost to his political career, following his election to the Assembly on a Congress ticket from Nanjangud constituency. He won the election by a slender margin of 45 votes securing 19,124 votes against K Narase Gowda of Janata Party (JNP). In the subsequent election, Mahadev failed to get the party ticket and M Linganna was pitted from the party against a political novice D T Jayakumar from JNP. Jayakumar trounced Linganna by securing 29,644 votes against Linganna’s 25,382 votes.
The election held in 1989 set the stage for archrivals Mahadev and DTJ. Mahadev secured 36,176 votes and DTJ 23,525 votes. The victory tilted in favour of DTJ in the subsequent election in 1994. DTJ got 56,513 votes and Mahadev 27,097. Since then, it was mixed fortune for them. Mahadev was re-elected in 1999 by winning against DTJ. Likewise, DTJ was re-elected in 2004 after defeating Mahadev.
It could be termed as the beginning of the end of a political career of a tall Lingayat leader, who did not make it to the Assembly later.
Owing to sudden developments in the party, especially with the prominence of Siddaramaiah, a new entrant to the party then, Mahadev severed ties with the party before the Assembly election in 2008.
BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa, who cashed in on the opportunity, invited Mahadev to the party, with the latter accepting the invitation after much deliberations. However, the change in party failed to bring luck to Mahadev. Owing to the change in reservation from general to reserved candidates (in Nanjangud), Mahadev had to shift to Chamarajanagar constituency in 2008. He lost the polls by a wafer thin margin of 2,612 votes. Mahadev was defeated by Congress’ C Puttarangashetty.
However, it did not deter Mahadev from enjoying power as he was appointed Chairman of the State Warehouse Corporation during the reign of the BJP-led government in the State, during the tenure of Yeddyurappa as chief minister. It did not last long. The saffron party did not heed to Mahadev’s demand for a ticket to contest the Legislative Council polls from Mysuru-Chamarajanagar local bodies segment in 2009.
Later, Mahadev quit the party and embraced Janata Dal (Secular) party in 2010. When the regional party denied him ticket in 2013 polls, Mahadev quit the party and went into political exile.
Recently, Union minister H N Ananth Kumar and MLC V Somanna had succeeded in bringing him back to the saffron party.
New-look for temple town
If the temple town Nanjangud wears a new look, the credit would undoubtedly go to Mahadev.
Mahadev laid the foundation for the overall development of the famous Srikanteshwara Swamy temple and its surroundings in the town during his tenure as a Cabinet minister in Chief Minister S M Krishna’s government between 1999 and 2004.
The works included dormitories, shopping complex, restoration of temple pond, river bank, parking lot among others.
When the successive governments failed to continue with the development works, Mahadev had taken to streets.
For Siddu’s cause
When Siddaramaiah severed his ties with Janata Dal (Secular) and switched sides to Congress in 2006, Mahadev was among the leaders in Old Mysuru region, who had striven for the victory of the former in the high-voltage Chamundeshwari byelection.
Mahadev had addressed the party workers in one of the campaign meetings held at Jayamma Govindegowda Choultry, Kuvempunagar, in Mysuru.
Ironically, Mahadev quit the party, opposing the undue prominence within the party to newcomers — Siddaramaiah and his followers — a few years later.