B Narayan Rao profile
It was the year 1979 and a team of senior BJP leaders were driving from Hyderabad to Kalaburagi. They stopped at Humnabad to address a party rally. A young man emerged from the audience and disrupted their speech. He countered their claims over the Nizam of Hyderabad being a tyrant who lived a lavish lifestyle.
The young man argued, that their claims were unfounded. He said that the Nizam was a benevolent and virtuous man, who had ensured harmony in the society. He had taken up several infrastructure projects like irrigation schemes, and set up industries, opened universities and colleges and promoted the arts.
While senior leaders like L K Advani were impressed with the young man’s oratory skills, youngsters like Pramod Mahajan and Narayan Rao Mannalli picked up a fight with him. Mr Advani intervened and said that everyone had a right to express themselves. But he asked the young man to wait till those on the stage had finished speaking.
The youth leader who was counseled by the former deputy Prime Minister was Basantpur Narayan Rao, who was emerging as a leader of backward classes. He spent over thirty years organising the fragmented backward classes and getting possible benefits to the people of the backward Bidar district, only to get elected as the MLA from Basava Kalyan in 2018.
Son of a boat man in Basantpur, he walked to school in Bidar, 15 kilometres away. He was a gifted speaker and addressed school gatherings and won a few prizes. B T Sasanur, the academic who founded the B V Bhoomareddy college in Bidar, spotted him in a cultural event and helped him join the B A course in his college.
Mr Rao was known outside the district in 1977 when he led a cycle jatha from Bidar to Bengaluru, urging the state government to set up hostels for backward classes and minority community students, on the lines of SC/ST hostels. “Then Chief Minister D Devraj Urs called a meeting of backward classes and minority leaders a few weeks later where he announced the setting up of backward classes and minority hostels from the social welfare department,’’ said his childhood friend Quazi Alioddi.
After spending nearly two decades in the Janata Parivar parties, Mr Rao joined the Congress in 1999. The S M Krishna government appointed him as the Chairman of the Karnataka State Literacy Mission Authority. Mr Rao organised village and hamlet visits along with officers and some experts in the field of education. The authority later brought out a comprehensive study of the literacy levels across the state. It pointed out that literacy levels among women from deprived communities like SC/ST/OBC and minorities in the Kalyan Karnataka region was comparable to the average literacy in some sub Saharan African countries.
He was among the founders of All India backward classes and Adivasi communities federation and served as its secretary for two terms. He lobbied with the state government to set up a low cost housing colony for the Rajgond community of native healers near Bidar.
His ready wit, use of the north Karnataka dialect and an instant connection with the masses made him a huge draw at rallies. Sometimes, he got into controversy for his
He also made a mark in the Assembly with his speeches. One of his last speeches was to demand the recreation of Anubhava Mantapa in Basava Kalyan and all round development of the town where 12 th century saints like Basaveshwara led a cultural revolution.
His friends recall that he was negligent about his health mostly due to his over confidence. `Recently, he was gently reprimanded by the Bidar deputy commissioner R Ramachandran for not wearing a mask during a meeting,’ recalls writer and his long time associate Gandharva Sena.