In Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s words, the farmer movement had lost a stalwart leader — one who knew the realities on the ground. And when it came to the question of replacing him, his supporters quickly turned to his son, Darshan Puttannaiah.
“We never discussed about launching me as a politician. If I had such plans I wouldn’t have a well-settled life elsewhere,” says Darshan, who’s resettling in Karnataka after 15 years, leaving behind a Denver-based software company he founded.
The Congress announced its list of candidates for 218 seats on Sunday, but did not declare nominees for five seats. One of them was Melukote, and sources said it all but confirmed that the party would support his political entry.
Darshan’s father was an MLA from Melukote in Mandya, representing the Karnataka Sarvodaya Party. The KSP originated from the farmers’ organisation called the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, which has merged with psephologist Yogendra Yadav’s Swaraj India party.
Puttannaiah became the first and the only Swaraj India MLA in Karnataka when he won in 2013. He gained close to 50% of the total votes polled, beating JDS candidate CS Puttaraju by a margin of more than 9,000 votes or about six per cent. Puttaraju had won the same seat beating Puttannaiah in 2008 by a margin of around eight per cent.
So, does being the son of a tall leader make it easy or difficult for Darshan to fight this battle? “Being his son, it is easy for me to get a head start. But I will have to work within the present system. My father stuck to his principles which is not always easy. But I would want to tread his path,” says the 40-year-old.
There was a huge change from his settled life abroad and the one that was awaiting him when he decided to contest elections. With him, his wife and two school-going children too would relocate.
“I have always liked the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha’s activism side of fighting for the farmers. My father never asked me to join politics. He said do what you like. I am not even an office bearer of the KRRS. But when my father died, the people in the constituency asked me to contest and that’s what transpired into this. I was only visiting here. I wasn’t even here,” he says.
With an engineering degree from Mysore University and a post graduate degree from Canada, Darshan left India in 2002. But he is not new to elections in Karnataka. He has been here for the previous elections, campaigning for his father and working on the ground and is hoping to take forward his father’s vision for his region – to resolve basic issues like water scarcity, to ensure minimum support price for the farmers’ produce.
Darshan refuses to enter any blame game when it comes to one of the most discussed topics affecting the region – Cauvery water dispute.
“It has to be a bipartisan discussion. They are Indians and farmers and so are we. We need to come up with the solution that works for both. Everybody needs to look at the bigger picture,” he adds.