How V.G. Siddhartha’s life intersected with politics and controversy2 min read . Updated: 31 Jul 2019, 11:35 PM IST
- People close to the late businessman say that his life was interspersed between the backroom of politics and the front end of his business empire that ranged from coffee to software
- Siddhartha had cultivated friendships with both state and national leaders irrespective of parties, but his proximity to power had dragged him into controversies as well
BENGALURU : In his death, the life of V.G. Siddhartha has been splashed across the news and social media, occupying the collective mindspace of a state and the country, dissecting every aspect of a man few can really claim to know.
People close to Siddhartha, who has been called “coffee king" and “coffee patriarch" since the news of his disappearance became public on Tuesday, say his life was spread between the backroom of politics and the front end of his business empire, which ranged from coffee to software.
Siddhartha’s body was washed ashore in the backwaters of Mangaluru, two days after he was suspected to have thrown himself off a bridge on the Netravathi river. He was laid to rest in Chikmagalur, surrounded by his passion and biggest achievement: coffee.
He is suspected to have taken his life because of his alleged inability to cope with rising debt and “harassment" by tax authorities. A note purportedly written by him to some colleagues, and circulated on social media, said he was being harassed by income tax officials as well as a private equity partner.
People from all sections of society condoled his death, especially corporate honchos and politicians who claimed to have close relations with the founder of India’s biggest coffee retail brand, Café Coffee Day. People close to Siddhartha say his political links were not limited to his father-in-law, former Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna. “We twice offered him a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections and once offered to nominate him to the Rajya Sabha. He declined, saying not in this life," said a BJP leader who knew the late businessman for almost three decades, requesting anonymity.
Senior Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar, who referred to Siddhartha as a “close friend", said he cultivated friendships with both state and national leaders, irrespective of parties and not for favours.
Siddhartha’s purported efforts to secure the release of late Kannada actor Rajkumar, who had been abducted by forest brigand Veerappan in 2000, has also found its way back in the news. Late Karnataka top cop C. Dinakar had claimed in his book, Veerappan’s Prize Catch: Rajkumar, that Siddhartha had offered to pay the ₹50 crore ransom demanded by the outlaw to release Rajkumar and his associates. Siddhartha’s role was explicitly mentioned.
However, R.R. Gopal, the head of Tamil investigative magazine Nakkheeran who mediated the release of Rajkumar, dismissed the book’s claims. He said over the phone that no money was exchanged and he found out about Siddhartha only after news channels played up the story on Tuesday.