Former chief minister S Bangarappa’s death has ended a political era that was full of struggle, pro-poor politics and most important of all a 40-year long political career loaded with frequent switches in party loyalties.
He was accepted into the Congress party four times — a feat no politician of his stature was able to pull off.
Sarekoppa Bangarappa’s political career reached its pinnacle when he was made the chief minister of Karnataka from 1990 to 92.
During this tenure he promoted three extremely pro-people programmes, Aradhana, Ashraya and Vishwa, which are popular even today and many zilla panchayats are implementing them.
Bangarappa took pains to formulate these three programmes and even their names were chosen by him.
Ashraya was a programme to build houses for the poor people and it went on to become precursor for other housing programmes as its rules were simple and norms easy to implement.
Aradhana was a programme to revive and rebuild 36,000 religious shrines belonging to all communities and Vishwa a programme to give direct financial help for rural artisans and tiny and cottage industries.
His successor, M Veerappa Moily, had also continued with these three schemes. But now, only Ashraya is running while Aradhana and Vishwa have achieved their targets.
Bangarappa, during his tenure, had also fixed the ‘litre fee’ for extracting toddy (neera) from palm trees for toddy tappers.
The government machinery in his time had shown tendency to bow to the liquor lobby and wanted to bring the cost of toddy per litre on par with Indian made liquor. But Bangarappa thwarted these plans and brought down the fee to `2 from `12, which won him and his party a massive following from the Eediga community in Shimoga, Chikmagalur, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Kodagu, Chamarajanagar, Mysore and Uttara Kannada districts.
Bangarappa was restless and never confined himself to a comfort zone. This nature also made him switch parties often and earned him the sobriquet ‘party hopper’.
He joined and re-joined Congress four times and was warmly welcomed by the Congress every time. He first joined Congress in 1972 and rejoined it in 1984, 1997, 1999 and 2009 — in the intermittent periods he had founded Karnataka Congress Party (KCP) in 1994, Karnataka Vikas Party in 1998, joined BJP in 2004 and Samajwadi party of Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2005 and in 2010 he had joined Janata Dal (S).
Bangarappa had moved away from state politics and had launched himself in to Lok Sabha and he was the only politician who got elected to parliament from three different parties — the KCP, BJP and Samajwadi Party — from Shimoga, giving him the title Solillada saradara (general with no defeat).
His intense political maneuvers had created ripples of dissent among his close associates and his family circles.
His elder son, Kumar Bangarappa, parted ways with him. This rivalry within the family cost him dearly and many of his close associates remained in the parties he had earlier dumped.
After losing mass base, Bangarappa lost to BY Raghavendra, son of former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections from Shimoga constituency.
After this defeat, he had a bad patch of health and in 2010 he switched to Janata Dal(S) — his last party hop. Crowd puller
People in Shimoga remember him as Sahebaru, always immaculately dressed in white and sporting dark glasses. The rustic Kannada accent that Bangarappa used in his speeches was a crowd puller. But for the accusations against him in the Classic computers scam, he led a clean public life.
Financially, he did suffer losses towards the end of his life.