Srikantadatta Wadiyar — a man of many parts

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BANGALORE, December 11:  Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, born in 1953 to the former Maharaja of Mysore, late Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, and the former Maharani, late Tripura Sundari Ammani Avaru, will go down in the history of the State for the stiff resistance he put up till the very end to defend his property, particularly the sprawling Mysore and the Bangalore palaces, including the vast land therein.

It was in 1996, when the J.H. Patel Government decided to take the royalty head-on in the matter of acquiring the vast palace property and moved two significant legislation — the Bangalore Palace (acquisition and transfer) Act and the Mysore Palace (acquisition and transfer) Act and both the legislation were enacted a year later.

It should be noted that it was for the first time after Independence and the discontinuation of the Privy Purse, that the government had sought to take over the property of an erstwhile royal family.

Wadiyar despite all the difficulties that he had to undergo, fought the case until the very end. One of the clauses in the palace acquisition bill states that he can continue to stay in the Mysore palace for his lifetime and thereafter, the government will take over the property.

In the recent years he had, however, stayed in a private accommodation outside the palace. Wadiyar and his four sisters (Meenakshi, Kamakshi, Indirakshi and Visalakshi) together own the 456-acre Bangalore Palace property with each one of the sisters having been given around 30 acres. His other sister, Gayathri, passed away at a young age.

All through the last few decades after the government took charge of conducting the famed Mysore Dasara festivities, Wadiyar cooperated in going through with the palace rituals, including holding private durbars reminiscent of the bygone era when his ancestors ruled the Mysore Kingdom.

He commanded the respect of a “virtual” maharaja, although he did not enjoy that authority. At one time, the family also owned property, particularly in Tamil Nadu (Udhagamandalam).

Wadiyar entered mainstream politics in 1984 initially joining the Congress, then switching sides to join the Bharatiya Janata Party and thereafter returning to the Congress before turning apolitical. It was immense popularity as the scion of the royal family that enabled him to enjoy a distinct advantage in politics.

At 31, he joined the Congress to contest the elections to the Lok Sabha from Mysore and handed down a stunning defeat to K.P. Shanthamurthy (an independent). No candidate was fielded against him by any party given the respect that the royal family commanded. In 1989, he defeated D. Made Gowda of the Janata Party.

Two years later he crossed over to the BJP and in the 1991 elections was defeated by a member of his community (Chandraprabha Urs, daughter of the former Chief Minister late D. Devaraj Urs). Then, he rejoined the Congress and won the 1996 and 1999 elections.

However, in 2004 he was relegated to the third position when he chose political hibernation. He was a four-time member of parliament (Lok Sabha) and twice, the president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association.

He was also a good cricket player and played for the University of Mysore where he pursued post-graduation. An acknowledged fashion designer and a promoter of Mysore Silk saris, he hosted several fashion events in the background of the Bangalore Palace for several years.

Compared to many of his ancestors, Wadiyar lived a tad longer. He was named after his grand-father Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wadiyar (the Yuvaraja of Mysore) who passed away in 1940 at the age of 51. His father, Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, too passed away at the age of 55 in 1974.

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