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Journey ends for a political traveller

Bangarappa

Bangalore, Dec. 26: Sarekoppa Bangarappa, former chief minister and badminton addict whose political career often followed a shuttlecock’s trajectory, died at a hospital here this morning, aged 79.

The Janata Dal (Socialist) leader, a diabetic, had been hospitalised with renal complications on December 7.

Bangarappa, a socialist and champion of the backwards and minorities, had stints in several parties including the Congress, BJP and the Samajwadi Party, and twice floated his own outfit.

His personal style, though, was unwavering: in his trademark all-white slick attire, he regularly took control of the floor of the Assembly with his witty speeches, often delivered in English.

Another constant was his love of badminton. An extremely fit man, he never skipped his daily round of the game till the age of 70.

Bangarappa was first elected MLA in 1967. After ministerial stints with successive Congress governments, he floated the Karnataka Kranti Ranga (Karnataka Revolutionary Front) and helped set up the first non-Congress government in the state in 1983.

Although he was widely projected as the candidate for chief minister, a surprise manoeuvre saw Ramakrishna Hedge of the Janata Party bag the post. Bangarappa continued to support the government for a while but merged his party with the Congress before the 1990 elections.

He was chief minister from 1990 to 1992 but lost his job following the Cauvery riots when the government failed to stop pro-Kannada activists from attacking Tamils during the inter-state water dispute.

Angered by his dismissal, Bangarappa floated the Karnataka Congress Party, which cut into Congress votes across the state in the 1994 elections and won 10 seats. He offered issue-based support to the new Janata Dal government, headed by H.D. Deve Gowda.

Bangarappa later joined the Samajwadi Party and, following electoral reverses, switched to the BJP where he stayed three years before moving to Deve Gowda’s JD(S) this year. He was Lok Sabha member for three terms.

Chief minister Sadananda Gowda, who visited Bangarappa’s home today, described him as “one of the tallest political leaders of our state”. Kannada film star Shiv Rajkumar, who is married to Bangarappa’s daughter, described him as a fighter “but most of all, a great human being”.

Deve Gowda, Union minister S.M. Krishna and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy were among the thousands who visited his home today.

Bangarappa’s body has been taken to his village, Kabatur, in Shimoga, 270km from here. He will be cremated with full state honours tomorrow.