Leaders, who spoke at a function to present a felicitation volume and award to the Kannada Chaluvali leader Vatal Nagaraj, here hailed his five decades of struggle seeking primacy for Kannada in administration, and putting successive governments under sharp scrutiny: whether in dealing with neighbouring States and the Union Government on the border row or the river water disputes.

The former Chief Justice of the Karnataka and Kerala High Courts V.S. Malimath said he had observed Mr. Nagaraj’s agitations, while resisting all temptations of power or position in his political career. He called Mr. Nagaraj the Gandhiji of Karnataka. Mukhyamantri Chandru, MLC and chairman, Kannada Development Authority inaugurated the function.

Mr. Malimath also presented a felicitation volume — Kavyabhinandana — a collection of poems penned by 109 poets, including Kayyara Kinhanna Rai, H.S. Krishnawamy Iyengar, Malali Vasanthkumar, M.N. Vyasa Rao, Mangala Satyan, K.S. Bhagavan and K. Ananthramu on Mr. Nagaraj to him. He was also conferred the Karnataka Bhooshana Award instituted by the All-India Ambareesh Fans’ Association.

Former Minister B.T. Lalitha Naik said that if there was any true secular leader in the State, it was Mr. Nagaraj, as one could find his fans among people cutting across barriers of language and religion.