//One-time MLA, Now a Daily Wage-earner

One-time MLA, Now a Daily Wage-earner

 Hukrappa, a Dalit MLA for more than year-and-a-half in Karnataka Legislative Assembly , now is a daily wage-earner, earning a paltry Rs 40 a day, most of it from tapping latex from rubber trees. A telling example of how Sangh Parivar used him as a Dalit card and how, when the purpose was served, he was junked.

Come election time, be it for the state assembly or Lok Sabha, there is invariably a mad scramble for party tickets to contest in all major parties. Grapevine has it that huge amounts change hands over an election ticket. A small-time local leader is prepared to spend in lacs to get a ticket. The amount so offered to the party higher-ups reputedly goes to different persons and coffers, partly to party election funds and the other portion to someone's pockets.

Then what is the motivation for these small streetside leaders to dream to be political bigwigs? What makes them part with huge amounts for the sake of a party ticket? A burning desire to serve the people? An irrepressible urge to be part of nation-building?

A look around at the mansions built, farmhouses acquired and gold hoarded at unknown hide-outs or money stashed in Swiss banks would provide an instant answer to the above questions.

A sitting MLA sets up an auto fuel filling station in his wife's name and later when the petrol pump distribution scam surfaces quietly alienates it to an acquaintance. He also builds a palatial house in his native village. To share his earnings with the one above and keep him appeased, he builds a temple too. Then he acquires a 40-acre farm at a whopping 'paper' price of Rs 40 lac. Now reportedly looking for some more and more prime property.

This is not an isolated case of an elected representative making a stride of progress in life. It is common amongst all parties. Mansions built by our erstwhile MPs and MLAs are proof to this syndrome afflicting the whole nation. Of course, there could be a small fraction of exceptions. And one shining example of this group is former MLA Bakila Hukrappa who represented the Sullia constituency of Dakhsina Kannada, a seat reserved for Scheduled Castes, for a part of a five-year term in 1980's.

A stunning contrast between the present-day MLAs and Hukrappa is that the latter never made money for himself. Hukrappa does not even have a house of his own. He lives with his wife and children in a shanty little house belonging to his father-in-law.

It was during the 80’s that all political parties were head over heels to find a suitable candidate for the Sullia constituency. Ramachandra Attavar had earlier won the Sullia seat on the Swatantra Party ticket in the 1960's. The fledgeling party founded by the late Chakravarti Rajagopalachari had moderately grounded its roots in the district largely on account of the efforts of the late J M Lobo Prabhu  ICS and others at the district level and N M Balakrishna of Aivarnad and others at the Sullia taluk level. In the early 1970's, the Swatantra party merged with the Janata Party through the Bharatiya Lok Dal.

With the split of Janata party in 1980, the BJP originated. It was on the lookout for a Dalit candidate from Sullia and their eyes fell on Bakila Hukrappa, whom they initiated into active politics and the Sangh Parivar placed him in the political arena.

Hukrappa, who had completed his PUC and was working as a coolie in an areca garden was made famous as a local candidate with the help of some earnest campaigning by young leaders like DV Sadananda Gowda and Anna Vinayachandra.

In the elections, Congress candidate Sheena was defeated by Hukrappa by more than 10,000 votes. The man who once climbed the areca trees and was specialized in spraying bordeaux mixture, now climbed the bus to reach Bangalore as a MLA.

A man of stark simplicity, Hukrappa attracted huge crowds towards himself. It is true that none of the later MLAs could accomplish so much as Hukrappa did. Have a look at the list:

Two PU colleges, 5 high schools, 4 hostels, 6 major bridges and tarring of 3 major roads are the major works undertaken during his truncated tenure of mere 18 months.

The village man even got an opportunity to visit Los Angeles to witness the Olympic Games as a proud representative of the state government.

While various reasons are cited for his leaving the BJP, Hukrappa said that the party's way of working did not suit his line of thinking. “I was unhappy with BJP because the office-bearers had varying ideologies. While the top leaders has a different view, the local leaders held their own views and tried to impose them on me. This is what I don’t like.  After becoming an MLA we need to treat everybody equally. But what a disgrace the present MLA’s do not co-operate with persons of other political parties," laments Hukrappa

A man of staunch ideals, Hukrappa’s political thoughts were clear. His drifting from BJP was a loss for the party, which did not take his action kindly. In the following election, caused by the then chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde getting the assembly dissolved to seek a fresh mandate, the BJP, to wreak a sweet revenge, diverted its own votes to Congress to ensure Hukrappa's defeat. Thus BJP denied him victory and he lost by meagre margin of 800 votes, he recalls bitterly.

He faced defeat contesting from the Janata party. In the 90’s elections, he contested from JD and won the third place.  From there he jumped to Congress and then to Bangrappa’s KCP. During the 94 elections he contested from KCP and could scrape only 2500 votes.
This was the gradual end to the active political career of this former MLA, who today lives in a house on a 2-acre plot which is not in his name. The house has no phone connection nor any facilities which are usually found in the houses of former MLA’s. If someone has to contact him, he has to depend on the goodwill of a Muslim neighbour to pass the message.

He then became the president of the Guttigar panchayat. He again joined JD and then drifted to BJP again to finally return to the JD fold.

"The public cast their vote and take us to victory so that once we become MLA we should cater to their needs. Doing social service is the job of an elected representative. Further, providing all benefits assured by the state  and centre to the region is also the task of the MLA. Service is the motto and not making money for self," elaborates Hukrappa.

This strong ideology developed within him by reading books of the lives of Gandhiji and Vivekananda and that prevented him from hoarding money for himself, he asserts.

“If money was what I wanted, I would have made it even later when I was the panchayat president," says Hukrappa, who today struggles to make both ends meet with the Rs 5,000 pension that he gets from the government.

He is not like the other MLA’s who built houses for themselves and fattened their bank accounts by obtaining commission for various development works.

With no regrets for his present state of life, Hukrappa is a living example of selfless service. But his importance in the village or community comes to the fore only when elections are around. Leaders from different parties come to him with folded hands to help the votes to be tilted in their favour.

At least on that count, ironically, he has remained a force to be reckoned with. On the final count, he indeed stands out as one who did not make a neat pile in spite of opportunities available. However, on a sadder note, the clean record appears to have slightly been sullied because of his frequent party-hopping.

Who knows, this factor alone may have obviated the chances of his gett
ing corrupted.

by Richie Lasrado and Viju Mangalore – from Nalkur-Guttigar
 August 13, 2006, DaijiWorld