Kengal Hanumanthaiah (14 February 1908 – 1 December 1980), also spelt as Kengal Hanumanthaiya, was the second Chief Minister of Karnataka (then, Mysore State) from 30 March 1952 to 19 August 1956. He is best remembered for his vision and contribution to the construction of Vidhana Soudha, the seat of the state legislature.
Kengal Hanumanthaiah was born in 1908 in a Vokkaliga family hailing from Lakkappanahalli, a small village near Ramanagara district, Bangalore. He graduated in Arts from the Maharaja College in Mysore in 1930 and later earned a degree in Law from Poona Law College in 1932. During his college days, he was elected as the Secretary of the Students Union and the Karnataka Sangha. After his graduation, he joined the bar council in the same year.
At that time, the independence movement was steadily growing and at the center stage of the movement was the Indian National Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi. Dr. P. Tandon, the then President of Indian National Congress, advised Hanumanthaiah to give up his active practice at the bar and to devote himself to the freedom struggle. With the inspiration of Gandhiji and the persuasion of Tandon, Hanumanthaiah joined the freedom movement and became very active in the then Mysore Congress. During the movement, he was jailed more than 9 times. Also, he was recognised as a sincere fighter of the nationalist cause and gradually grew in stature as a leader. He was unanimously elected as the leader of the Parliamentary Party wing of the Congress Party in Mysore Assembly in the year 1948. Also, he was a member of the historic Constituent Assembly of India.
He became the second Chief minister of Mysore state in 1952, following the victory of the Congress party in the 1st general elections. Having philanthropic characteristics and immense administrative capabilities, his tenure as Chief Minister was marked by the efficient state-of-affairs and activities aimed at uplifting the rural population of the state and promoting economic growth.However, Hanumanthaiah’s major contribution was the construction of the “Vidhana Soudha”, the largest legislature-cum-office building in India at that time. His other key achievement was the Unification of Karnataka. He played a pivotal role in uniting the Kannada speaking areas within the boundaries of a single state.
During an interview, Kengal Hanumanthaiah explained the reasoning behind the construction of a grand legislature building. A Russian cultural delegation was visiting Bangalore and Hanumanthaiah took them around to show the city. Stung by their comments, Hanumanthaiah vowed to create a monument so magnificent that it would showcase the best of Karnataka’s indigenous architectural style. This resulted in the Vidhana Soudha, the seat of Legislature in Karnataka.
After resigning as Chief Minister shortly before the Unification of Karnataka in 1956, he moved on to national politics. He was continuously elected as a member of parliament representing Bangalore city from 1962 to 1977. During this period he served as minister in the Union cabinet handling a number of portfolio’s such as Railways, Industries etc. In the 1971 elections, he defeated the famous poet Gopalkrishna Adiga, who was a candidate of the Jana Sangh. However, he lost to Justice K. S. Hegde of the Janata party in 1977. He died on 1 December 1980. His political heir is Kengal Shreepada Renu, his grandson. The Kengal Hanumanthaiya Memorial Trust also celebrated his 104th birthday in 2012 which had the Chief Guest, the 13th President (then Finance Minister), Pranab Mukherjee
Hanumanthaiah is widely revered as a visionary and a statesman in Karnataka.A statue of Hanumanthaiah has been installed in front of the Vidhana Soudha. His centenary celebrations were held in the year 2008.