A journey from boardroom to ballot

Darshan is the son of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha leader and Melukote legislator K S Puttannaiah, who passed away all of a sudden in February. File photo

In 2015, Darshan Puttannaiah, founder and chief executive at Qwinix Technologies, a software company, was among 40 entrepreneurs under the age of 40 honoured by the Denver Business Journal in the US.

Three years later, with a green shawl draped over his shoulder, Darshan is braving the scorching summer sun to seek votes as the Swaraj India’s candidate from the Melukote Assembly constituency. Darshan is the son of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha leader and Melukote legislator K S Puttannaiah, who passed away all of a sudden in February.  

This election, a handful of candidates who stayed away from electoral politics despite belonging to families of politicians, are embarking on a journey from corporate boardrooms to the ballot.  

“I had no intention to join politics, but I’ve always loved the activism part of it, like the Raitha Sangha,” says Darshan, 41, who moved to the US in 2001 after earning a degree in instrumentation technology.

Darshan says he spent a “considerable” time in Melukote over the past year, helping not only his father but also farmers. He started Code for Farmers, a nonprofit that brought coders together to provide technology solutions to farmers.

His father’s passing, however, left him with little choice. “It’s a huge lifestyle shift, but now I realise that whatever I did was on the path to this. People wanted me to contest and I need to live up to the faith they had in my father.”

The Hoskote constituency is also witnessing the debut of a C-suite executive. BJP’s Sharath Bachegowda, 36, was chief executive at Evexia Nutritions, a Bengaluru-based nutraceutical firm. The son of former minister B N Bachegowda, Sharath holds a mechanical engineering degree and went on to study MS in the US.

Surgical gastroenterologist Dr Preethan Nagappa, 47, has also taken the political plunge as the BJP’s candidate from the Hanur Assembly constituency. He is the son of former minister H Nagappa, who was tragically found dead in 2002 in the Chengadi forest in Chamarajanagar district, 106 days after he was abducted by notorious brigand Veerappan.

“There was pressure on me to contest elections since the last ten years,” says Preethan, the director of the Bangalore Institute of Gastroenterology. “Even in the 2013 elections, there was pressure from supporters, but it was only this election that it became serious enough for me to contest.”

The circumstances in which Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda entered politics was similar. He had a job in Washington DC when his father, former minister C Byre Gowda, passed away in 2003. Krishna flew back and contested the byelection from the erstwhile Vemgal constituency in Kolar district that his father represented.

Dr Preethan convulsed with laughter when asked to describe the shift from being a practising medical professional to politics. “This is my first time as a candidate. I’ll know what the shift means only after a year or so.”

Another doctor is in the fray. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s 37-year-old son Dr Yathindra is the Congress’ candidate from the Varuna constituency that his father represented. Yathindra earned his Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in 2009.

Apparently, Siddaramaiah was not keen on launching Yathindra if it was not for the death of his younger son and political heir Rakesh.

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