Jeevaraj Alva was a trained physician from St. John's Medical College. In college he became a student leader during the JP movement and this led him to decide against practicing as a doctor. He was one of the close associates of Ramakrishna Hegde.
Alva was born into a middle-class family which hailed from the coastal Canara region of Karnataka and belonged to the Tulu speaking Bunt community. His father, K. Nagappa Alva, was also a politician and he once headed the state unit of the Congress party.
Alva married the classical dancer Nandini Alva (née Seth). They are the parents of a son, Aditya (b. 1989), and a daughter, Priyanka (b. 1983). On 29 October 2010, Priyanka married the Hindi film actor Vivek Oberoi. The couple have a son, Vivaan (born 6 February 2013) and a daughter, Ameyaa (born 21 April 2015).
Alva died on 12 February 2001 at Manipal Hospital, Bangalore. He was 53 years old, and was survived by his wife and two young children, aged 12 and 18.
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