By Harihar Swarup
Davangere in Central Karnataka is known for its lips-smacking “benne dosa” (butter dosa) and, of course, Shamanur Shivashankarappa. The 92-year-old Congress leader became India’s oldest MLA on May 13 after being elected MLA for the sixth time from Devangere South. He defeated BJP candidate and former Mayor B G Ajay Kumar by a margin of 27,888 votes. Shivashankarappa will be entering the assembly along with son S SMallikarjun, a two time MLA from Devangere North.
Other members of the club of oldest legislators include former Kerala Chief Minister, V S Achuthanandan, who turned 100 this year. Achuthanandan retired from electoral politics in 2021 after suffering a Stroke. Before him, there was Nripen Chakraborty, one of the founders of communist movement in Tripura. Chakraborty, who was Chief Minister for 10 years, served as an MLA till he was 93.
Born on June 16, 1931, to Savithramana and Shamanur Kallappa, Shivashankarappa studied up to the intermediate level, but he built a huge business empire, comprising multiple industries and educational institutions. He serves as head of the Bapuji Educational Association and the Shamanur group of industries. An avid sports lover, he is honorary president of the Devangere Cricket and Sports clubs and owns the Shaman Davangere Diamonds Cricket team.
A member of the Congress since 1969, Shivashankarappa first became an MLA in 1994. He is among the key fundraiser for the Congress and is one of the very few leaders in Karnataka, who uses helicopters as a regular mode of travel.
Shivashankarappa’s informal style of politics endears him to the voters. This time, he .in the narrow lanes of his constituency on an electric buggy. His three daughter-in-laws went on a door-to-door campaign to woo the women voters. “Appaji brought Covid vaccines worth Rs six crores even before government gave free vaccines. The SS hospital provided free dialysis, cataract operations and maternity services” said one of his grand daughters-in- laws.
These days, Shivashankarappa can hardly walk unassisted and his voice has become feeble, but he overcomes such challenges with his wit and humour. When a reporter asked him about being a chief ministerial aspirant, he quipped, “who does not want to be chief minister? I am head of a huge network of institutions and I know how to run the system. I can make Karnataka corruption free.”
In June 2021, when there were murmurs about BJP replacing B S Yediyurappa as Chief Minister, Shivashankarappa, who is President of the all India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, came out in support of the fellow Lingayat. He said the government’s priority should be tackling Covid—19 and not replacing the chief minister.
When Lingayat leaders were unwilling to take a stand on the sexual abuse case involving the head of the Murugharajebra Mutt, Shivashankarappa did not mince words. “We have reached a stage where women needed to be cautious while visiting the swamijis”, he told a meeting. (IPA Service)