AK Subbaiah, firebrand politician from Kodagu, no more

AK Subbaiah, firebrand politician from Kodagu, no more

A firebrand politician, legal luminary and noted thinker Ajjikuttira Kariappa Subbaiah (AK Subbaiah). File photo

A firebrand politician, legal luminary and noted thinker Ajjikuttira Kariappa Subbaiah (A K Subbaiah) passed away on Tuesday afternoon after prolonged illness at a private hospital in Bengaluru. He was 85.

Subbaiah was the first president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka during its formative days (Janata Party). Ironically, Subbaiah later turned out to be a bitter critic of the party.

Beginning his career as an advocate, Subbaiah made his foray into politics in the 1970s and was elected a member of the Legislative Council. As an Opposition leader in the Upper House, Subbaiah won plaudits for unearthing corruption in R Gundu Rao-led Congress government. His fiery speeches and strong anti-graft stand helped BJP secure a whopping 19 seats in the Assembly polls during 1983 with prominent leaders like Dr V S Acharya and BS Yediyurappa making it to the Assembly for the first time.

Subbaiah was responsible for bringing the first non-congress government in the state led by C M Ramakrishna Hegde when BJP extended outside support to the Hegde led coalition government comprising Janata Party, Kranti Ranga and other regional parties. Protesting against the RSS ideologies that began to shape the policies of BJP, Subbaiah came out of the saffron party and rose to prominence by taking on the BJP.

Subbaiah is also credited with building the first-ever regional party in Karnataka when he launched ‘Kannada Nadu.’  However, the party failed to make an impact in the state politics and later Subbaiah joined Congress and represented the party in the Upper House.

Rolex watch scam

His contemporaries recall that the entire gallery in the legislature would be filled with people who would only come in just to listen to the speech of Subbaiah. Through his meticulous preparation and the fiery speech he not only took on the Gundurao’s government but also ensured resignation of then minister C M Ibrahim for his alleged role in the Rolex watch scandal.

During the hearing before an inquiry commisssion constituted during the tenure of Ramakrishna Hegde as chief minister, Supreme Court advocate Ram Jethmalani addressed Subbaiah as ‘Sabbaiah’ despite repeated corrections by the latter.  Subbaiah shot back saying that he may have to call him as ‘Joot’malani. Shocked by Subbaiah’s words, Jethamalani corrected himself.

In his condolence message, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said, “Subbaiah built the party from the grassroots and never compromised on opportunities. He had always fought against injustice. His demise is indeed a great loss for the state.”