Vatal Nagaraj is an Indian politician and social activist in Karnataka. He has served as a Member of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly from the Chamarajnagar constituency for three terms. He set up the Kannada Chaluvali Vatal Paksha (KCVP), a political party in Karnataka in 2018. Vatal is known for using comic ways for protests such as cattle, donkeys, household items and even commodes to conduct protests against the government in Karnataka.
Vatal Nagaraj was born on Sunday, 29 May 1949 (age 74 years; as of 2023) in Vatalu, Mysore, Karnataka. His zodiac sign is Gemini. His hometown is Bengaluru, Karnataka. He studied till class ten at Government High School, Chamrajpet, Bengaluru.
Height (approx.): 5′ 9″
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Vatal’s father’s name is Madappa. His father is no more.
Wife & Children
Vatal was married to Jnanambika, who died in 2020. On 5 August 2020, she passed away at the age of 65 in a private hospital in Bengaluru. In an interview, his daughter shared how her parents fell in love and said,
My father visited T Narasimhapura village in the late sixties. With his friend he went for lunch to his friend’s sister’s house. There he saw a seventeen year old girl, and it was love at first sight. She was his friend’s sister’s daughter Gnanambike. She was serving food. My mother’s parents refused to their marriage saying that he had no job, no house and no property, but only his Kannada cause. My grand mother even said that he was not good looking. My grand father hated politicians. To top it up my father kept going to jail. My mother was the eldest and they did not want her to suffer with an activist. My mother did not budge and they had to give in.”
He has a son, and a daughter, Anupama.
Vatal resides at House No.329, 2nd Block, 2nd Stage, RMV Extension, Bangalore-560094.
In 1989, he contested the Karnataka Legislative Assembly election and became an MLA from the Chamarajanagar assembly constituency. In 1994, he again won the assembly elections from the same constituency by a margin of 5982 votes against INC leader S. Puttaswamy. In 2004, he won his third term in the Chamarajanagar assembly constituency. In 2009, he contested in the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Bangalore South constituency but lost to MP Ananth Kumar. In 2018, Vatal became the president of Kannada Chaluvali Vatal Paksha.
Protests for Pro-Kannada causes
Vatal first gained attention in 1960 by joining a protest against dubbing Telugu movies into Kannada. He became the leader of the movement because of his opposition to this practice. On 7 September 1962, he and his followers were arrested by the police after they set fire to Alankar Talkies in Bengaluru for showing a Hindi movie. In 1964, he led a protest to remove a 150-year-old British Raj-era cenotaph pillar built in memory of soldiers who died during the Siege of Bangalore in 1791. He protested for two months and in October 1964, the Bangalore City Corporation removed the cenotaph making a statue of Kempe Gowda in its place. In 1996, to participate in solving the problems of people in Karnataka and demanding jobs from the central government by establishing an organization called Kannada Chaluvaligaru. The organization also protected the Kannadigas, Kannada language, and culture.
In the Miss World 1996 pageant, Vatal organized protests stating that evaluating women on beauty standards was unfair because some women might participate in such pageants for financial reasons. As part of his demonstration, he even arranged an event called the “Rakshasi (female demons) show.”
In the 1980s, he led numerous protests supporting the Gokak agitations, which aimed at establishing Kannada as the primary language of the state. His style of organizing protests had a significant impact on many young people. In 2009, Nagaraj supported youngsters who were threatened by the pro-Hindutva groups demanding a ban on Valentine’s Day. In July 2016, he took out demonstrations against Rajinikanth‘s Tamil movie Kabali because it was a non-Kannada film. In 2018, Vatal warned of protests against Rajinikanth if he came to Karnataka on the invitation of Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. He also alleged that Rajinikath was an anti-Kannada and pro-Tamil agent. On 9 September 2016, after the Supreme Court announced the release of 15,000 cusecs of water from the river Cauvery to Tamil Nadu, he held a bandh in Karnataka. In 2017, he staged protests outside the BMRCL office because the signs and direction boards in metro rail were in Hindi. In an interview, he talked about this and said,
Hindi is slowly creeping into Karnataka and nobody approves it. The State Government is supporting this and not raising its voice, especially when authorities like Governor Vajubhai Vala give Hindi speeches in the Assembly. Nowhere is there a hard and fast rule that Hindi must be used officially, along with the regional language and English. The Centre can do as they please elsewhere, but in Karnataka our mother tongue is Kannada and it must be used in public services like Metro.”
In 2018, Vatal protested against the Mahadayi river water-sharing conflict between Karnataka and Goa for which he and several Kannada organizations staged a protest at Freedom Park against the central government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This demonstration was held on the same day of Narendra Modi’s visit to the city. The protesters who were dressed in black attire with black bands, were initially detained by the police but were eventually released. In 2019, he was arrested for wearing a police uniform during his protest for the implementation of the Raghavendra Auradkar committee report on police reform, which called for a 30-35 percent salary increase for police personnel.
In 2019, he organized a ‘sleep-in protest’ outside Mysuru Palace following the death of a Dasara elephant at Mathigodu Elephant Camp in Nagarahole Tiger Reserve. Vatal suspected something suspicious in the elephant’s demise.
In 2020, he urged the government to revoke its decision of setting up a Maratha Development Authority with a fund of Rs. 50 crore for Marathi-speaking individuals. On 5 December 2020, he called for a statewide bandh to protest against the cause. On 14 Septmeber 2023, he led a protest against the Tamil Nadu government at the Karnataka border in Attipally leading to an arrest of him and 50 other participants. They were detained for chanting slogans against the state government for the Cauvery water issue.
On 27 September 2023, he scheduled Karnataka bandh on 29 September 2023. The decision of Bandh came after a metting between farmer leader Kuruburu Shanthakumar, advocating for a Bengaluru Bandh, and Vatal Nagaraj, calling for a Karnataka Bandh on the same date. Following the meeting, they opted for separate bandhs, and several organizations withdrew their support from both initiatives.
He owns a Scorpio.
- Bank Deposits: Rs. 1,00,000
- Motor Vehicles: Rs. 4,00,000
- Agricultural Land: Rs. 5,00,000
- Non-Agricultural Land: Rs. 2,30,00,000
- Residential Buildings: Rs. 1,00,00,000
Note: The given estimates of movable and immovable assets are according to the year 2018. It excludes the assets owned by his wife and dependents (minor).
His net worth was Rs. 3 Crore for the financial year 2018-2019. It excludes the net worth of his wife and dependents (minors).
- In 1964, he became the Bengaluru City Corporator. He was offered to join the Congress party by Nijalingappa, who was the Chief Minister of Karnataka at that time. He did not join the party because he preferred activism over politics. In an interview, he talked about this and said,
I have my own party. The Kannada Chaluvali Vatal Paksha that I am loyal to. Every other party will try to use the image to push their own interests. I may not be in a high office, but I have a voice that resonates in all of Karnataka.”
- In 2008, actor Sathyaraj made comments about the Cauvery issue which triggered Vatal a lot. In 2018, when Sathtaraj’s movie “Baahubali” was released, Vatal said that he would not allow the screening of the film unless he did not apologize publically for the comments he made in 2008.
- In 2009, Vatal was allotted a coconut as a party symbol by the Election Commission for the Lok Sabha elections as a KCVP member. Due to a lack of party funds, he sold coconuts in Bangalore for Rs. 5 and Rs. 10 to collect money from the public. This benefitted him in two ways, one, crowd-funding and promotion of his symbol and two, he collected Rs. 35,000 in two days. The Election Commission opposed his actions stating that he violated the Model Code of Conduct by selling the party symbol. In response, he stopped selling coconuts and adopted a new approach. He began splitting the coconut in two, offering one half as prasad and seeking contributions in the other half.
- His unique ways of protest are well known to the public. In 2009, to protest against the lack of public bathrooms, he attempted to urinate in front of the Raj Bhavan but was stopped by the police. Additionally, he rode a bullock cart to the Vidhan Sabha to protest against rising fuel prices and wore a burqa to demonstrate against rape cases.
- In 2010, he contested the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP, the city’s civic authority) elections and promised to form a Donkey development board and provide free haircuts and free buttermilk and juice to people in his election manifesto. After his announcement, one of the newspapers titled its article about him as ‘Vatal’s vows: vote for me, save my ass.’
- In 2015, he organized a unique award ceremony for animals named the Rajyotsava Award which was named after a prestigious civilian honour in Karnataka. The ceremony recognized various domestic animals like donkeys, dogs, buffaloes, cows, and oxen. Vatal presented shawls and garlands to two donkeys.
- In 2016, it was reported that he organised 200-250 protests annually and declared 2,000 statewide bandhs in Karnataka.
- In 2018, Vatal organized a wedding ceremony for two sheep named Jacob and Carolyn in Bengaluru. In an interview, he expressed his support for Valentine’s Day and urged the central government to declare it a holiday. Additionally, he called for the state government to offer Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1 lakh to couples planning to get married. In a similar event in 2020, he arranged a marriage for two horses named Raja and Rani.
- He has a deep affection for Kannada and Karnataka, dedicating over two decades of his life to the state. It is reported that he has organized 10,000 protests for the welfare of Karnataka and the Kannada language.
- He leads the Kannada Para Okkoota, which is a coalition of pro-Kannada organizations.
- He has a very different dressing style. He always wears dark glasses and a bucket cap in front of camera. According to a media report, his wife was the only person who has seen him without the cap.
- Some politicians criticize his style of protest, claiming it is for public attention as the protests are short-lived. According to them, the demonstrations continue until a new issue emerges. While acknowledging that his demands are valid, these critics argue that the bandhs he calls for are not appropriate as they disrupt various activities in the state.