A senior bureaucrat in Karnataka with an uncanny ability to predict the polls, better than most pollsters, was confident as early as one month before May 12 voting that Janata Dal-Secular leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy would be the king and not the kingmaker as most political pundits predicted.
Barring the seemingly partisan poll surveys and exit polls that gave decisive mandate to either the Congress or the BJP, the consensus was of a fractured verdict. True, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda’s party may have lost deposits in 147 seats, but its numbers 38 (37 if Kumaraswamy’s one seat out of two he won is deducted) and its ability to save its members from BJP poachers ensured that the boss’s son became the king.
After the BJP inexplicably chose to form a government without having numbers even after the Congress with its 78 extended support to Deve Gowda to make his son the chief minister the die was cast. For both, the Congress and the JD-S 2018 Assembly polls was a battle for survival and the stakes for the Congress were higher and it could not afford to lose relevance in Karnataka, come what may. So, it thought nothing of handing over the chief ministerial post to a party whom it described as the B-team of the BJP during campaigning.
In fact, 58-year-old Kumaraswamy retorted saying that the Congress was the bigger danger to the country than the BJP but vowed not to have anything to do with either of the two parties, secure in his personal knowledge that he will be the key factor after all the votes were counted. “I will not be a kingmaker but I will be the king,” Kumaraswamy would say in every media interview, but none chose to believe his seemingly incredulous assertion.
But after polls threw up a fractured mandate and BJP chief minister BS Yeddyurappa threw in the towel without facing trust vote, the way was paved for Kumaraswamy to ascend the throne for the second time in his political career. Way back in 2006, he entered into an agreement with the BJP to become the Chief Minister on a rotational basis of two and half year’s terms each. He was the CM for 20 months in 2006-07. After completing his tenure, Kumaraswamy refused to vacate the chair for the BJP and the resultant political turmoil saw the BJP eventually come to power in 2008 polls.
Since then, Kumaraswamy has been patiently waiting for yet another chance, all the while retaining hold over the Vokkaliga community, the dominant caste other than Lingayat in Karnataka, and continued to be relevant in Deve Gowda family belt.
Meanwhile, Kumaraswamy sidelined his elder brother HD Revanna much against his father’s wishes and had a firm grip over the party apparatus. In fact, during the 2018 elections, it was widely believed that Kumaraswamy could do business with the BJP and his father even had to threaten that he will disown his son if he went with the BJP.
But the sharp politician that Kumaraswamy is, he chose a weakened Congress to a powerful BJP, as the very nature of compulsions of the Congress will ensure the stability and safety of his government, at least till 2019 to begin with. With the new post-poll alliance between the Congress and the JD-S promising to continue into the 2019 general elections to the Lok Sabha, political analysts believe that the Congress was willing to leave the state to the regional party in return for greater piece of action at the Parliament level.
As Kumaraswamy prepares to take oath on Wednesday, in the presence of the who’s who of the opposition leaders, the chief minister to be knows fully well the importance of guarding his flock from the BJP, which was only waiting to defeat the government during the trust vote. It is with a strength of just 38 (Ramanagara that Kumaraswamy vacated is expected to be won again by JD-S candidate possibly from his own family) that Deve Gowda’s son will become the Chief Minister again.
Born in Haradanahalli village of Holenarsipura Taluk in Hasan district, Kumaraswamy did his early schooling in Hasan before moving to Bangalore for graduation in sciences. But the son of the towering Vokkaliga leader was not too keen on politics as a career and instead dabbled in films as a producer. It was his father’s preference for Kumaraswamy that he had to enter politics as his political heir. His first electoral battle was in 1996 for Lok Sabha elections from Kanakapura constituency that he won. But later in 1998 Lok Sabha polls, he lost and in the assembly polls the following year lost to DK Shivakumar, the Congress leader he must thank for his good luck today, in assembly elections from Sathanur.
In 2004, Kumaraswamy was elected to the assembly when his party was in a coalition with the Congress. But two years later, he broke the arrangement and teamed up with the BJP to become the chief minister on a rotational basis and refused to give the BJP its chance at running the government. With public sympathy behind the BJP, it won the elections in 2008 and formed a government on its own.
Since then, Kumaraswamy has sat out of power, as the Congress replaced the BJP in 2013.
Incidentally, it was Kumaraswamy who helped the Congress get a chief minister by edging out S Siddaramaiah from the party in his quest to be the number one after his father.
His wife, Anitha was an MLA once and it is being speculated that she could be fielded from Ramanagara constituency of her husband.
Yes, it is the same Ramanagara that hosted the film crew that made legendary Sholay in the rocky terrain of the village for nearly three years.