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Bengaluru:Ananth Kumar, the Union minister for chemicals, fertilizers and parliamentary affairs, died in the early hours on Monday in Bengaluru. The 59-year old, six-time parliamentarian from Bengaluru South constituency, was being treated for what is suspected to be cancer at the Sri Shankara Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in the city.

He had returned to Bengaluru after being treated in the US and UK earlier.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Ananth Kumar as an able administrator and Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said he lost a ‘great friend’.

“Other than at the time of elections, he never brought up the question of party," Ramalinga Reddy, a senior Congress leader and seven-time legislator from Bengaluru (Jayanagar and B.T.M. Layout) said. Both of Reddy’s constituencies fall in Bengaluru South.

Kumar, who had a Bachelor of Arts from K.S. Arts College in Hubbali and later completed his law from J.S.S Law college, Mysuru, joined the BJP in 1987 after serving several roles in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

His rise within the BJP was fast as he was made Union minister just two years after he entered the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1996 from Bengaluru South constituency, which remained firmly under his control. Since his first portfolio in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led cabinet as minister for civil aviation, Kumar had gone on to hold several important portfolios in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, including tourism, sports and youth affairs, culture, urban development and poverty alleviation.

But Kumar did nurse the ambition of becoming Karnataka’s chief minister, which had caused friction with incumbent state BJP president B.S.Yeddyurappa, two people close to the late minister said. Kumar had toured the state with Yeddyurappa in the late 1980s and was instrumental in building the party that has once formed a government and is currently the single largest party in the state.

“But he had reconciled with the fact that he could never become the CM," one of the two people cited above said, requesting not to be named. Kumar was a Brahmin and Karnataka’s caste-driven politics has remained skewed towards the Lingayats and Vokkaligas, the two largest caste groupings in the state.

Another person cited above said Kumar used to translate what Yeddyurappa said to central BJP leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani.

Kumar had kept up this role when he translated almost all of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public speeches in Karnataka, especially in the run-up to the May assembly elections.

Kumar and his wife, Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, also ran Adamya Chetana, a voluntary organisation working for better social development, that had earned the couple significant goodwill from its beneficiaries.

The state government has declared three days of mourning.

Kumar is survived by his wife and two daughters.

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