By P.T. Bopanna

Firebrand Kodava politician and the first Karnataka State President of the BJP, A.K. Subbaiah (aged 85), who later turned a bitter critic of the saffron party, passed away on Tuesday.

Ajjikuttira Kariappa Subbaiah, a former MLC, was suffering from renal problems since two years and was on dialysis. Also a diabetic, his condition worsened in the last two weeks.

Subbaiah started as an advocate at Virajpet in Kodagu (Coorg) district and headed the state unit of the BJP in the early 1980s.

Subbaiah began as a promising politician and won the plaudits of people for fighting corruption. As head of Karnataka BJP unit, he exposed corruption in the then Congress government headed by R. Gundu Rao, who was also from Kodagu. Among them was the ‘Rolex scandal’ involving the then minister C.M. Ibrahim.  

His finest hour was in the 1983 Assembly elections when the BJP won 18 seats. The wily Ramakrishna Hegde who formed the 1983 government with BJP’s support, slowly marginalised Subbaiah and pitted him against Kannada matinee idol Dr Rajkumar.  

Known for his king-sized ego, the maverick politician claimed that the growth of the BJP in Karnataka was solely to his efforts and attacked the RSS which ultimately led to his exit.

Then he started the Kannada Nadu party which was a flop show. He eventually joined the Congress and was a member of the Legislative Council between 1988 and 1994.

In between he started his law practice and took up public causes, including the famous Jamma land case (a land tenure peculiar to Kodagu). Though he lost the case, Subbaiah went around in Kodagu saying that he had won the case and got himself felicitated!

He also took up the case of a few people in Kodagu hoisting Pakistani flag. From then onwards Subbaiah had become an unpopular person in the Kodava community.

Support to the unpopular Tipu Jayanthi, earned the wrath of the Kodava community who charged him with vitiating communal harmony in Kodagu by making irresponsible statements.  

It was being claimed that Subbaiah was batting for Siddaramaiah government’s Tipu celebrations because Subbaiah’s son A.S. Ponnanna, an advocate, was appointed additional advocate general of Karnataka, a political appointment. Subbaiah supported when Siddaramaiah government tabled the Anti-Superstition Bill. 

It was sad to note that one of the most promising politicians from Kodagu ended up as the most hated person in the district.

This writer was also one of the admirers of Subbaiah in the initial years for his crusade against corruption.

He has authored books, including a book on the RSS titled “RSS Antharanga” in Kannada. Subbaiah is survived by five sons. 




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