Venerable BJP minister dies today at a hospital in Bengaluru this morning in presence of his wife, Tejaswini and two daughters. Union Minister and senior BJP leader Ananth Kumar was suffering from the chronic disease of cancer for which he sought treatment from New York.
His body is kept at National college ground for last homage. Kumar was 59 when he passed away.
The national flag will fly at half mast across the country as a mark of respect to the union minister. Karnataka has announced three-day state mourning and all schools, colleges and offices are closed today.
Ananth Kumar was one of the few ministers to have also served in the earlier BJP-led government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In fact, he was the youngest minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet in 1998 and was minister for Civil Aviation, Tourism, Sports, Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation.
The six-time MP from Karnataka was the first person to speak in Kannada in the United Nations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described him as a remarkable leader, an able administrator and a great asset to the BJP.
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy said Mr Kumar was a “friend beyond politics” and a value-based politician. “Our families had a friendship beyond politics. He always valued and had given priority to friendship. I have lost a great friend in his death,” the chief minister added.
A graduate in Arts and Law, Mr Kumar was associated with the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), before joining the BJP in 1987.
As a student activist, he was also jailed along with other ABVP leaders during the Emergency of 1975.
He was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1996. In 1998, he became the youngest member of the Vajpayee cabinet and he returned as minister in 1999.
In 2003, he became the BJP’s Karnataka chief. The party won the highest number of seats in the assembly and the Lok Sabha under his stewardship.
The parliamentarian from south Bengaluru constituency held charge of two ministries in the Narendra Modi government — Chemicals and Fertilisers since May 2014 and Parliamentary Affairs since July 2016.
Union Minister DV Sadananda Gowda expressed grief over his death. “Shocked, it’s unbelievable. My friend, brother Ananth Kumar is no more,” he wrote.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also expressed sorrow over his death. “Deep sense of grief on hearing that Shri Ananth Kumar is no more with us. Served BJP all along. Bengaluru was in his head and heart, always. May God give his family the strength to bear with this loss,” she tweeted.
Opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal have also offered their condolences.