MANGALURU: Starting his career as a clerk in Vijaya Bank, Nettala Muthappa Rai entered the underworld in 1980s, allegedly to protect his business. His life of crime took him to places like Mumbai, Bengaluru and Dubai, but he never lost touch with his hometown Puttur because of his family deity Shree Mahalingeshwara Temple and Kambala, the traditional buffalo race of the coastal region.
Rai (68), who battled cancer for a year, died in Bengaluru early on Friday. Rai founded pro-Kannada organisation ‘Jaya Karnataka’ in 2008. He retired from public life after being diagnosed with cancer. He is survived by his wife and children. According to his family, his final rites were conducted at his residence in Bidadi on Mysore Road on Friday evening.
For the last 15 years, the reformed don, known as ‘Putturda Muttu’ (Puttur’s Pearl), was often seen cheering for buffalo racers at the famous Vijaya Vikrama Kambala. It was only this year that he missed it because of ill health. Rai visited Shree Mahalingeshwara temple at least once a year. In the last few years, he made considerable donations to the temple and also donated chariots worth Rs 2.5 crore to Mahatobara Kukke Sri Subrahamanya temple last October.
Ashok Kumar Rai, a Kambala organiser and Rai’s associate for nearly 30 years, said that Rai would come to the rescue of people in need. “Rai has always helped people from the coastal region, especially for property matters,” Ashok said. Rai took to crime when he was a student, he added. Although Rai was prodded by his followers to enter politics, it never materialised. After Rai’s death, the post of president of the Karnataka Athletics Association is left vacant. Deputy CM Ashwath Narayan is the frontrunner for the post. KAA’s vice president HT Mahadeva is said to take an interim role.