Sarekoppa Bangarappa (26 October 1932 – 26 December 2011) was an Indian politician who was Chief Minister of Karnataka from 1990 to 1992. He served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Karnataka between 1967 and 1996, before contesting a series of six elections for the Lok Sabha from 1996 to 2009, of which he lost two. He founded both the Karnataka Vikas Party and the Karnataka Congress Party during a 44 year career in which supporters called him Solilllada Saradara (a leader who cannot be defeated). As well as these two parties, Bangarappa was at various times a member of the Indian National Congress (INC), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)), and his critics described him as a party-hopper because of this.
He was born on 26 October 1932 in Kubatur village, Shimoga district in Karnataka, India. His father was the late Kallappa and his mother, Kallamma. He was married on 1 January 1958 to Shakuntala, and the couple had five children, including the actor/politician Kumar Bangarappa and film maker/politician Madhu Bangarappa. He was awarded a ba in law and also a Diploma in Social Science.
A holder of socialist views, Bangarappa began his career in politics began with election to the state assembly of Karnataka in 1967 as a candidate for the INC in the Sorab constituency of Shimoga district. He became known at this time as a champion of the backward classes, of which his Deevaru origins made him a member. Subsequently he became as cabinet minister in the government of Devaraj Urs, with his first position being as Home Minister in 1977. This post was followed by that of Minister for the Public Works Department, then Revenue Minister in 1980.
In 1983 he left the INC and joined the Karnataka Kranti Ranga but returned to the INC fold after that party had a brief dalliance with the Janata Dal. He was appointed Opposition Leader in 1984 and Agriculture Minister in 1989. He was appointed as Chief Minister of the state in 1990 as successor to Veerendra Patil, who had been displaced on the orders of Rajiv Gandhi, allegedly on health grounds. Subsequently, in 1992, Bangarappa was replaced as Chief Minister by Veerappa Moily. His term had been marred by allegations of his involvement in scandals, such as that involving Classik Computers, although he was cleared of any impropriety in that case and one other. His removal followed government failings in handling the Cauvery riots.
Bangarappa left the INC after rebelling against its new leader, Sonia Gandhi. He went on to form the Karnataka Vikas Party and then the Karnataka Congress Party. His election successes after leaving the chief ministership demonstrated the extent of his personal support, which seemed not to be reliant upon the political party to which he belonged, although this declined over time. The news service operated by Rediff later described that he came to be seen as a “turncoat politician” who lacked ideology and principle and who moved from one party to another according to whichever he considered to be the most likely to gain power at the time.
Having won the Sorab seat on seven occasions, Bangarappa left it and the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in 1996. In the same year he contested the Shimoga constituency, a mostly agricultural area in which the Idiga caste dominated, and was elected a member of the Lok Sabha as a KCP candidate. He lost in 1998 as a representative of the KVP, then was re-elected in 1999 as an INC candidate and in 2004 as a BJP candidate. In 2005 he resigned from the BJP and joined the Samajwadi Party, sparking a by-election for the Lok Sabha that he won. In 2009 he lost to B. Y. Raghavendra of the BJP in his attempt once more to be elected, by which time he was in poor health. In that last election and in his 2008 defeat in the state assembly elections to Raghavendra’s father, Yeddyurappa, Bangarappa had represented the Indian National Congress. Later, in December 2010 and with his political career in decline, Bangarappa joined the JD (S).
Comments made by Bangarappa at the time of the 2004 assembly elections caused problems for his son, Kumar, who was at that time a minister in the INC government of S. M. Krishna. Kumar represented his father’s old constituency, Sorab, and differences of opinion between the two men had already surfaced, which Sarekoppa appeared to delight in publicising but Kumar attempted to play down. Kumar reacted to his father’s decision to join the BJP in order to contest the Lok Sabha elections by himself resigning from the INC and his ministerial role. Kumar then discovered that his politically inexperienced younger brother, Madhu Bangarappa, had been selected by the BJP to fight the constituency, apparently at the instigation of his father. Kumar returned to the INC and agreed to stand for election against his brother, determined to make a point to his father and to support Krishna’s desire to see Sarekoppa humilitated on what was his “home turf”. Sarekoppa campaigned for Madhu and attempted to mobilise his own support to that end.
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