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RIP Ananth Kumar: The BJP stalwart who was the youngest minister in the Vajpayee cabinet

Union Minister Ananth Kumar died of cancer in Bengaluru. He was 59.

New Delhi: BJP leader Ananth Kumar, who passed away Monday after battling lung cancer for several months leaves a legacy behind and gaping hole in the political corridors.

The BJP stalwart was a part of both the Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Narendra Modi cabinets and was known for his intricate ties inside the party circles. He also supervised the midnight launch of the government’s flagship Goods and Services Tax (GST) on June 30 last year, complete with a rehearsal at the Central Hall of parliament.

Let’s take a look at the BJP veteran’s life and his political exploits:

  • Born in Bengaluru in 1959 to railway officer HN Narayan Shastri and Girija Shastry, Ananth Kumar graduated from the KS Arts College in Hubli and studied law in JSS Law College.
  • Apart from his political duties, he was deeply involved in a non-profit that he ran along with wife Tejashwini in memory of his mother Girija Shastry, who was his earliest teacher.
  • The 59-year-old, a six-time parliamentarian and the BJP’s biggest leader in Karnataka, was the party’s go-to person for trouble-shooting or liaising with rivals.
  • He began as a student activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) – the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – and was even jailed along with scores of opposition activists during the 1975 Emergency imposed by the Congress government of Indira Gandhi.
  • After gaining prominence within the RSS-linked family, he joined the BJP in 1987 and quickly took on important posts.
  • In 1996, he contested and won the Lok Sabha election from Bangalore South, a constituency that never picked anyone else. The Congress last won the constituency in 1989, but failed to win it back, despite fielding different faces against Ananth Kumar in every election.
  • In 2014, Ananth Kumar defeated Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, who was the Congress candidate.
  • In 1998, Ananth Kumar became the youngest minister in the Vajpayee cabinet at 39. He returned as minister in 1999. Over the years, he handled many key ministries, including civil aviation, tourism, sports, urban development and parliamentary affairs.
  • In 2003, he became the BJP’s chief in Karnataka; he was among the few leaders who helped build the party in the southern states, where it had little or no presence, and enabled the BJP’s first government in Karnataka. Yet, his relationship with BS Yeddyurappa, the BJP’s first chief minister in the south, was said to be troubled.
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