As the 2024 Lok Sabha elections near, the BJP has chalked out big plans to make a splash in south India and a crucial part of those plans is CT Ravi. The former RSS karyakarta is one of the saffron party’s rising stars in the south and has been given crucial responsibilities.
Ravi is in-charge of politically significant states like Maharashtra, where the BJP returned to power this month following a split in the ruling Shiv Sena. He is also tasked with managing Tamil Nadu where the BJP has been trying to break the bipolarity of the AIADMK and DMK. Goa is another state on his list. Ravi, MLA from Chikkamagaluru in Karnataka, is also in charge of BJP’s National Schedule Caste Morcha.
So how is the central role different from the state role? “State was bit of power, but at the centre, there are greater responsibilities with challenges to prove ourselves every day,” Ravi tells News18.
The Karnataka BJP leader recalls the phone call he received from party national president JP Nadda who asked him whether he would like to continue as a minister or work in the organisation.
“I did not think for a moment and told him that I am more of an organisation man. I did not expect so much from the party,” says Ravi.
The Kannada-speaking leader who had trouble communicating in Hindi is now fluent in the language. Being in-charge of Tamil Nadu, he is taking lessons in Tamil as well.
“Our PM reiterates that everyone should make extensive use of regional language or mother tongue as these languages are the soul of India,” he adds.
A Swayamsevak since 1987, CT Ravi is considered to be a staunch Hindu face of the BJP in southern India. He worked towards building the Bajrang Dal in Karnataka.
His rise in the party from the grassroots has been phenomenal, but was not all smooth sailing, starting with objections from within his family. Not many know that it was on the advice of an autorickshaw driver that CT Ravi joined the BJP at 19.
“For me, every step forward was a turning point. Be it graduating to the BJP from ABVP and becoming district BJP Yuva Mocha general secretary in 1993, being appointed general secretary of Karnataka Yuva Morcha in 1998 or when I entered electoral politics in the 1999 Assembly elections from Chikkamagaluru constituency against Congress minister Sri Sageer Ahmed. I lost by a narrow margin of 982 votes.”
“I became president of BJYM Karnataka in 2003. I contested again and won as an MLA in 2004 with a margin of 25,000 votes. I contested again and became a minister and won the constituency four times. I was made general secretary and in-charge of state and a Morcha. Every point felt like a turning point in my life,” says Ravi.
Ravi has played a big role in strengthening the BJP in Karnataka, the only southern state where the party has tasted electoral success. He has organised scores of conventions and outreach programmes, criss-crossing the state with stalwarts like BS Yediyurappa, Ananth Kumar, VS Acharya, S Mallikarjunaiah, DH Shankarmurthy, Pralhad Joshi, KS Eshwarappa, Jagdish Shettar, DV Sadananda Gowda and others. Ravi has undertaken 17 padyatras in his district alone on various people-centric issues over the last three decades.
Born into a humble farmer’s family in Chikkamagaluru district in 1967, Ravi was actively involved in public life right from his school days. As a high school student, he took part in the agitation launched by the Raita Sangha against the then Congress government. He participated in the 22-km padyatra from Aldur to Chikkamagaluru for farmers’ cause and was imprisoned for a day.
During 1991-92, CT Ravi participated in the Ekata Yatra organised by Narendra Modi. On January 26, he joined the team led by senior BJP leader Murali Manohar Joshi that set out to hoist the Tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar, but was stopped by authorities in Jammu.
Being a staunch Hindutva ideologue, CT Ravi participated in the Ayodhya Temple movement in the late 1980s. He attempted to reach Ayodhya in 1990, but was stopped by the Mulayam Singh Yadav state government. In December 1992, he reached Ayodhya three days before the demolition of the Babri Masjid, a significant turning point in Indian politics.
After the Congress government dismissed the BJP-led governments in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, CT Ravi started for Delhi to participate in the Delhi Satyagraha in 1993. He was imprisoned with others in Maharashtra and sent back to Karnataka later on.
In 1994, Ravi was part of the BJP agitation to hoist the national flag at the disputed Idgah Maidan in Hubballi, Karnataka.
He was at the helm of the Datta Peeta liberation movement in Chikkamagaluru right from the 1990s. Ravi launched the Dattamala Abhiyan and headed the campaign successfully to generate public awareness about the Hindu cave shrine atop Chandradrona Hills (now claimed as Bababudangiri by a community) near Chikkamagaluru. He led the Datta Peeta Satya Sandesha Yatre and held conventions across 70 panchayats in Chikkamagaluru district.
“In 2006, as part of the Datta Peet liberation movement, I had organised Satya Sandesha Yatre in 29 Assembly constituencies spread across seven districts in the Chikkamagaluru and Mysuru region to raise public awareness and convey the truth about Datta Peeta issue that was sent to court twice. The state cabinet has sent its report to court and a verdict is expected soon,” says Ravi.