‘Appe Midi’, Julia Roberts and S. Bangarappa

D.P. SATISH writes from New Delhi: Even though Sarekoppa Bangarappa spent almost 15 years in the national capital New Delhi as a four-time MP—he entered the Lok Sabha on a different symbol each time—he actually did not like the capital and its politics.

Bangarappa lived at a sprawling British built bungalow behind the Prime Minister’s official residence for 10 years. This leafy bungalow, enveloped by rare and old trees and full of greenery, was a magnet for peacocks in the area, searching for food or water, and relaxing or dancing in the well protected, manicured lawns of the stately bungalows.

Bangarappa liked these peacocks and had built a pond for them in his lawn. He had instructed his long time secretary Chandrashekhar to arrange grain for the peacocks all through the year. He had also built a 5 foot high water fall built near the pond to enable peacocks to enjoy a shower.

He ordered his secretary to construct a night shelter to protect peacocks from New Delhi’s bitter cold. To his dismay, peacocks ignored his magnanimity and preferred to stay on branches of the tree during night.

Bangarappa used to sit in his lawn watching the peacocks for hours. Sometimes, he used to sing old classics and folk songs in his booming voice. I had the rare privilege of giving him company on many an occasion.

The former President of India Shankar Dayal Sharma had stayed in the same bungalow for over 20 years before Bangarappa. BJP president Nitin Gadkari now boasts the address 13, Teen Murti Lane.

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Bangarappa missed playing badminton in New Delhi. He hated the extreme weather of north India. He often used to complain that Delhi was not fit for human habitation, and would rarely step out of his bungalow, if he had no work at the Parliament.

Some of his old friends in Delhi like Ghulam Nabi Azad, V.C. Shukla, Kapil Sibal, H.R. Bhardwaj, R K Dhawan, Farooq Abdullah et al used to visit him at his house for filter coffee and idli or dosa.

He would regale them with all kinds of stories, especialy about the man he hated the most, P.V. Narasimha Rao. Sometimes, referring to PVN, he would mutter ‘that bloody bugger is still alive’.

Unlike most Congress leaders, Bangarappa hated sycophancy. He was ready to go only to Sonia Gandhi‘s house. He always expected other leaders to come to his house.

Dr Farooq Abdullah was Bangarappa’s neighbour for many years. They had a very good relationship dating back to their days as fellow chief ministers in the 1990s. Sometimes, they used to return home from the Parliament for lunch in the same car.

Bangarappa had no security and Dr. Abdullah had Z plus security. Sometimes Bangarappa used to joke that it was dangerous for him to travel with Farooq Abdullah as he was facing a threat to his life from Kashmiri militants and it was like inviting a maari home!!

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When Bangarappa quit BJP to join Samajwadi Party in 2005, I was with him at the SP office on Copernicus Lane near Mandi House. After his induction, we drove to his Teen Murti lane house in his car.

SP chief and the then UP CM Mulayam Singh Yadav was also with him in the same car. Bangarappa did not a know a word of Hindi and Mulayam did not know a word of English. The job of acting as their interpreter fell on me. They discussed their initial days in the socialist movement in the 1960s during that 15-minute drive.

Bangarappa was not impressed by Mulayam’s intellect. Later, he told me in Kannada: ‘Ivanige thaleeli yenoo illa. Ivananthavarigoo UP jana vote haaktharalla (He is a dull head. Even a man like him get elected in UP).”

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Bangarappa had a fairly big collection of books at his house. He had a wide range of interests. He was fond of books related to science and nature. Of late he had developed a great interest in nuclear science, as a member of parliamentary standing committee on defence.

He even wanted to address international media on India’s need for nuclear bombs and had asked me to introduce him to foreign journalists in New Delhi.

His other habit was studying trees and plants in his compound. He would spend hours talking about them. He even wanted to plant a sapling of the famous Anantha Bhattana Appe midi (a rare variety of tender mango from Sirsi in Uttara Kannada district) in his compound.

Bangarappa was very proud of his knowledge of different types of maavina midi and their taste.

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He was fond of home cooked food. He liked idli, vada, dosa and pongal for breakfast. He preferred anna, saaru, sambar and curd for lunch and dinner. I was his regular guest whenever he was in New Delhi for the Parliament session or for some meeting. He had a special liking for the people from his place Shimoga.

He was also a huge fan of Hollywood movies. We used to watch movies of James Bond, Clint Eastwood, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Julia Roberts and others at his house.

Once, a senior Congress minister from Karnataka also joined us. He was commenting non-stop on Julia Robert’s role in Pretty Woman. Bangarappa, who was totally engrossed in that classic, lost his cool and asked him either to shut up or leave.

He angrily told him that he was unfit to watch an English movie and he should restrict himself to the movies shown on Udaya TV. That minister later became a Karnataka chief minister!

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Bangarappa had held all prime positions in the state politics. He was a senior minister holding major portfolios like home, revenue and agriculture. He was KPCC president and leader of the opposition. Later the chief minister of state. 7 time  MLA and a 4 time MP.

But, he was sad that he did not become a Cabinet minister at the Centre. He had joined the BJP with the sole intention of becoming a Union minister in 2004. But, fate had decided otherwise. BJP lost and Congress came to power. Bangarappa missed his chance.

I suspect he died with that regret.

During 2004-2009, Bangarappa rarely visited New Delhi. He was looking dull and unenthusiastic. His ego and self esteem never allowed him to admit that he was disillusioned. After he lost 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Shimoga, he visited New Delhi just 3-4 times.

During one of his meetings, he rued that dirty politics of Delhi was not for straight forward people like him and he had no hope left in his political career. He truly admired only two leaders Indira Gandhi, who made him KPCC president, and her son Rajiv Gandhi, who made him the Chief Minister. He had contempt for the rest.

He always maintained that he was not corrupt and used to hold his rivals in the party and state politics responsible for the charges against him.

May his soul rest in peace.

File photograph: Former chief minister of Karnataka, S. Bangarappa, who passed away in Bangalore on Monday, clambers on to a bicycle after joining the Samajwadi Party in 2005 (Karnataka Photo News)