First Baron John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (1834–1902), historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887:"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
“BakilaUkrappa, former MLA of Sullia constituency in Dakshina Kannada District of Karnataka, has had an eventful political journey. Once a BJP MLA, he has traversed the entire political spectrum for a chance to serve his people. In the end however he is back to his roots, where his life started, doing what he does best, simple honest hard work to make a living. This is his story.”If this oft quoted maxim were to be modified to describe political power in this modern era, it would read, "Power tends to enrich, and absolute power tends to enrich permanently”
Not so in the case of BakilaUkrappa, a former MLA from Sullia constituency. His life as he lives it now, is a glaring example of the originally revered ‘honesty is the best policy’ maxim, but with conditions applied.
In an age when MLAs have their own choppers, and declare assets in Croresat the time of filing their election nominations,the case of BakilaUgrappa is a striking anomaly. Netagiri has not changed him - He still clings on to his core valuesof honesty and simplicity.
In 1983, Ukrappa was elected as MLA from the Sullia Constituency in Dakshina Kannada District in Karnataka and served in that capacity for 18 months. Since then, nothing has changed for this politician, who even to this day works as a daily wage worker in the vicinity. He could never convince his hands, that had gone rough by plucking coconuts, tapping rubber and doing other odd jobs to make both ends meet to rest themselves, by earning extra 'moolah' under the table, even when he possibly could have. Perhaps if he did, his life would have been different. But, since he refused, he continues to cope with his life’s unchanged reality the way he knows best – with hard work.
Billed as a 'party hopper', Ukrappa has been watching the political arena of the state closely over the last 34 years and evidently he is baffled by the field of play.When one witnesses the life he currently leads, it becomes rather evident that his political strategy was to serve people, but somehow his political hops boomeranged and landed him at the point from where he started his political journey - at his humble abode, doing what he knew best.
As Ukrappa sits silhouetted against the backdrop of a dilapidated house, he turns nostalgic about his political journey. He was one among the 18 elected MLAs of the BJP in Karnataka when Atal Bihar Vajpayee’s party was in its early years of formation. The BJP had supported the Janata party government headed by then chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde then. When Hegde dissolved the assembly and called fresh elections, BakilaHukrappa took a leap from the BJP to the Janata party after an 18 month stint as a BJP legislator. His belief? He could do something for his people, if he remained with the party in power.
The move boomeranged as he lost the elections in 1985. He lost in the elections in 1989 too, contesting on a Janata party ticket. Later he joined Karnataka Pradesh Congress Party headed by S.Bangarappa in 1994 where and tasted defeat again. Thereafter, he had brief stints in Janata Dal (Secular) party headed by H. D. Devegowdaand the Congress returning to the BJP fold, following which his political career went into a tail spin.The BJP has strengthened its base in Sullia constituency since 1985 and the sitting MLA Angara has won five consecutive elections since 1994 closing the small window of opportunity that this rare politician may have had.After losing his MLA seat he served Guttigaru village Panchyath as a member and president.
Latest reports indicate that he has joined AamAadmi party in the hope of reviving his political career. His political life has come a full circle, as did his personal life except that 34 years have lapsed since he made his first attempt at serving the people through politics.
In today’s political spectrum an ordinary village Panchyath member leads a comfortable and in some cases flamboyant life style, let alone MLAs and Ministers. Most of them may not even be in a position to keep track of their income, leading to delayed filing of assets with the Lokayuktha.
On the other hand, BakilaUkrappadid not even have a house of his own for many years. After spending 20 years at his wife’s small house, he managed to build a small accommodation with roofing sheets. In addition he has a small agricultural plot and gets a little pension from the government.
Though nothing has changed for Ukrappa , political experts feel that party hopping in 1985 cost him dear. On the other hand, his native villagers in Guttigaru feel his simplicity and honesty perhaps let him down, as words and money garner votes.
Lal BahadurShastri, India’s own former Prime Minister was known for his simplicity, honesty and ethical lifestyle. Karnataka’s S.Nijalingappatoo perhaps comes in that fold. Though Ukrappa does not belong to that league, his pursuit for a political identity relying on simplicity and honesty warms the heart.
Multifaceted Ukrappa, apart from being an unflagging politician, is also a Yakshagana artist, and loves sports. His simplicity has helped withstand the test of time, but will he taste success in today’s rough and tumble politics remains to be seen.