VETERAN CONGRESS leader and former Karnataka chief minister N Dharam Singh who was popularly known as ‘Ajatshatru’ for garnering many friends and few enemies in the course of his over five-decade journey in politics passed away in Bengaluru on Thursday. He was 80. Singh, who was chief minister between 2004 and 2006, had been ailing for a while and suffered a heart attack at his home on Thursday.
Singh was on eight consecutive occasions elected to the state assembly as a legislator and was twice member of Parliament. He was the chief minister of the 2004 coalition government between the Congress and the Janata Dal Secular party of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, which met with an abrupt end in 2006 when the JDS in a stealthy operation tied up with the BJP, leaving Singh and the Congress party in the lurch. Singh had become the chief minister in 2004.
A member of the Rajput community, Dharam Singh managed to win the support of masses in the impoverished Jewargi region of north Karnataka’s Gulbarga district for over five decades despite having no large support base in the region from his own community.
Dharam Singh emerged on the political firmament as a labor union leader from the Gulbarga region and was propelled into power by the wave of electoral support for the Congress in 1972. He won successive elections from the region till his first defeat in 2008 to a novice BJP candidate. He has served as a minister of virtually every ministry in Karnataka and prior to becoming chief minister was the public works department minister in the S M Krishna-led Congress government which was in power between 1999 and 2004 in the state.
Singh had been the Congress president for Karnataka in the period preceding the 1999 state polls. He became a member of Parliament in 2009 from the Bidar region of the state.
A votary of a brand of politics revolving around patronage, Singh over the years focused mostly on managing perceptions rather than development itself. He would attend every wedding, funeral in his constituency and would help anyone who sought his aid.