For an MLA to be described as ‘humble, honest and hardworking’ by both his party supporters and detractors alike, is indeed rare. The residents of Jayanagar, an assembly constituency nestled in the lap of south Bengaluru, had the privilege to be represented by one such legislator – B N Vijaykumar.
I grew up a stone’s throw away from B N Vijaykumar’s house, in the vicinity of the Jayanagar shopping complex. Several times, I have walked past his house without knowing that it belonged to the MLA of my constituency. He lived in a simple residence with his siblings and their families. The simplicity in his lifestyle then came as no surprise since with every successive interaction I began to see the humility in his persona.
I began to notice that he was willing to learn from and collaborate with anyone, a quality that many busy leaders seldom dedicate time to. This won him friends and admirers from across diverse professional fields, economic background and age groups. He made it a point to regularly attend RWA meetings, organise training sessions for the officers in his constituency, engage with thought leaders via interactive sessions and constantly involve anyone who brought in new ideas. Yet, openness to ideas and patience in problem solving was coupled with his stern hand in implementing tough solutions. He believed in getting the work done, nothing less, and this he did truly through sheer discipline and dedication.
While all incumbent candidates will say with utmost confidence that their work will speak for itself, not everyone has the courage to bank on their work. Vijaykumar did, he genuinely believed that if he is true to his work in developing his constituency, if he actively solves problems in his constituency, citizens will re-elect him. In an interview given to an online publication one week prior to his death, Vijaykumar was asked about his campaign and his thoughts on necessity of increasing the campaign spending limit. His answer was this:
I have worked for the constituency with all my efforts the last five years. Now, if I just go to all the houses in my constituency with a pamphlet in my hand, then it’s enough to get their votes. This doesn’t require spending money at all.
This simplicity and courage of conviction seemed too naive to be true the first time I interacted with him. In the years to follow, my initial scepticism was gradually but surely dismantled. As a student of politics, you fear to meet only those who know how to cheat the system to get ahead, seldom do you expect to meet those who play by the rules and win. Vijaykumar did, he first won the hearts of the citizens of Jayanagar through his relentless dedication, the votes followed.
In the heat of Karnataka’s assembly polls, in the early hours of 4 May, residents of Jayanagar woke to news of Vijaykumar’s death. He was recovering from a major cardiac arrest but refused to stay away from walking every lane of Jayanagar in the hope that his beloved constituents would provide him with yet another term to work for them. Alas, fate had other plans. Jayanagar, the land of victory, lost its truest of warriors.
Tomorrow, as Jayanagar votes to elect his successor, he will be sorely missed.