There was never a day we were apart

Ananth Kumar with state BJP leaders during a protest in Bengaluru. DH Archives

Bhaurao Deshpande’s room number 504. That’s where my journey with Ananth Kumar started in the 1980s when he was practising law at the Karnataka High Court.

One day, I made him shun his black coat. “Stop your practice. You’ll make a good politician. There’s a good opportunity,” I said. He listened to me and we went on to live in the same room.

From there, we moved to then Deputy Speaker Mallikarjunaiah’s quarters. Ananth Kumar, his wife Tejaswini and I lived there for about 4-5 years. Although he was newly married, he never hesitated to spare time to travel the length and breadth of the state.

Ananth Kumar’s contribution in building the party, and the struggle, cannot be compared at all. So firm he was that he would decide on his morning walks what he wanted to do to help build the party.

During Emergency, we were in jail for several months. We got back to work as soon as we came out. For many years, he worked as party general secretary while I was the president. His only goal was to make the party grow.

If Karnataka has seen any development today - be it the Kempegowda International Airport or the Namma Metro - Ananth Kumar’s contribution was significant, especially when he was a senior member of the Vajpayee Cabinet.

Ananth Kumar got elected from the Bangalore South Lok Sabha seat six times in a row. Whoever went to Delhi to see him, including a grassroots party worker, was welcomed into his chamber. He would summon officials and get their problems solved.

L K Advani did not agree at all when the BJP and JD(S) formed a coalition in 2006. “Not possible,” Advani said. “You should be the chief minister throughout. Otherwise, not possible.” It was Ananth Kumar who took us to Vajpayee and convinced him that it was a good opportunity for the BJP to form a government under my leadership, even if it was for just 20 months.

When I became Deputy Chief Minister, Ananth Kumar pushed me to take the Finance portfolio, assuring me that he’d guide me through it. He really insisted on this. I listened to him and the move brought success to the party and the government.

He was just 59! Who could even expect this? Just three days back, Tejaswini and I spoke to the doctor at the hospital. We were told he was recovering and that there was nothing to worry.

There was never a day we were apart - good times, bad times, in power, without power - we took steps together to strengthen the party.

I have no words, but I have hundreds of memories.

This is a big loss for the state and the country. It looks like nobody is in a position to fill this gap. The party has been orphaned with this loss.

We won’t get another Ananth Kumar.

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