Tribute to A. K. Subbaiah: Social Advocate and Firebrand Politician

Throughout his life, he organized and participated in many peoples' struggles and had success. Karnataka has lost a special politician and activist fighter.

A.K. Subbaiah was one of the most distinguished and honest politicians of Karnataka and one of the patrons of the Gauri Memorial Trust passed away at Manipal Hospital Bengaluru on Tuesday. Despite suffering from a chronic illness, he was committed to social causes. Today, Gauri patrike pay our tribute to the life of A.K. Subbaiah. His long-time friend Manu Shenoy has written about him.

Subbaiah was one of the greatest Parliamentarians of the state of Karnataka. Throughout his life, he organized and participated in many peoples’ struggles and had success. Kambadakada and Barepole struggles in Kodagu district were his early days of the movement. In a prolonged struggle waged by him in the high court of Karnataka, he was successful to an extent in resolving the Jamma Bane land issue which still affects the people of Kodagu.

Born on 9th august 1934 in Hudhikeri in Kodagu district, Subbaiah lost his father at an early age. After his mother’s remarriage, he was raised in his Uncle’s house in Harihara village. Nobody bothered to admit him to school. He himself got school admission and attended school in Harihara village in 1943. He completed high school in T. Shettigeri village secondary school and then Hudhikeri.

After completing the Intermediate at Government College, Madikeri, he worked as a teacher for some time in Gejjehanagodu in Somwarpet taluk. He then worked as a Second Class Assistant in the Health Department at Madikeri. A small incident at that time pained his mind. So he quit the job and joined BSC in Madikeri. There he organized protests based on the problems at the hostel. As a result, he was not allowed to sit for his second-year B.Sc. degree exam. He met with the Vice-Chancellor and made an appeal and then he was allowed to take the exam.

As a student during the 1958 assembly by-elections, he campaigned for PSP party and was instrumental in bringing PSP parties to win against Congress.

He studied law at the Sharadavilasa College, Mysore in 1963 and began his career as a lawyer in Virajpet. He was already attracted to the Janasangh and became involved further in its organization. Jansangh and Sangh Parivar recognised his organising skills and he was elected to the Karnataka Vidhan Parishat in 1968 from the Kodagu-Mangalore-Mysore constituency. He was subsequently elected to as a member of the legislative council in 1974 and 1980.

When the Emergency was declared in 1975, AK Subbiah was one of the first political figure to be arrested. He was considered a political prisoner. Even after the emergency was lifted in 1977, he remained in jail for a few days. He was finally released. In 1979, he contested in the Madikeri Assembly constituency and lost to MC Nanaiah.

He was a member of the Legislative council for a total of four terms and served as the leader of the opposition in the 1980s. Under Devraj Urs administration he was considered a threat to the ruling party. At one point the government even considered abolishing the Legislative council itself. Subbaaiah was already well known with his sharp tongue as “Suddhi Subbaaiah”.

When Gundurao was the Chief Minister, he was responsible for the resignation of his government’s two ministers, Renuka Rajendran and KM Ibrahim. Renuka Rajendran was involved in a bribe scam of Rs 25,000 to get a job, KM Ibrahim’s Rolex watch scam forced him to resign.

In 1983-84, when Janata let govt came to power AK Subbaiah was the state unit head of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Kranti ranga group also had gained a lot of ground. The then Janata Party’s Ramakrishna Hegde was given external support by BJP. The formation of the government required the support of the BJP legislators and Subbaiah decided that their party would remain outside the government, Will is not become a partner in government. He said he would act as a constructive opposition party. He had all the chances of becoming Deputy Chief Minister if he wanted to.

Ramakrishna Hegde could not digest AK Subbayya’s support. Many of his scandals were uncovered by AK Subbaaiah. Ramakrishna Hegde has been embroiled in a number of cases, most notably the bottling scandal, the Bharat Hegde case and the phone bugging case.

On the same occasion, AK Subbaaiah and Dr. Rajkumar fans also clashed and Rajkumar fans have reached the point of attacking AK Subbaaiah. It was successfully handled by Subbaiah. Subbaya was expelled from the BJP due to a conflict with the RSS. Subbaya used to openly critique RSS clashing against it. Rajkumar fans, Ramakrishna Hegde administration, and the RSS used to attack Subbaaiah together. He managed all this and formed a regional party called Kannada Nadu. But that party didn’t last long. Then many of those who were with Subbayya re-joined the BJP.

Subbaiah then started his career as a lawyer in the state high court in 1987. When the Babri Mosque was demolished in Ayodhya in 1993, Subbaaiah undertook traveling across the state with a message of peace and harmony.

Till recently, he has been carrying out several struggles in Kodagu region and Karnataka.  Subbaiah was a key figure in the struggle for land and shelter of tribal community members who were evacuated from the forest land of Diddalli in Kodagu district. He was also involved in the “Save the Constitution” campaign. Though his health has deteriorated, his fighting spirit has not diminished. He along with H.S. Doreswamy participated in many struggles like Karnataka communal harmony forum and save the constitution. When several ruling parties tried to intimidate and harass activists who were involved in many people’s struggle he fought for them in High court. Karnataka has lost a special politician and activist fighter.

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