Not the kingmaker, but the King itself. It was always clear that a good showing by Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) will be at the expense of the Congress and that a hung Assembly in Karnataka would put the spotlight on the JD(S). But that the JD(S) would occupy centrestage of Karnataka politics is a twist that has taken everyone by surprise — the party that has come third may well get the chief ministership, with the support of the second largest party.
H D Kumaraswamy, 59, has been a chief minister earlier. But this time around, from a potential situation where it looked that his party may be irrelevant to government formation, to be offered, unconditionally, by the Congress, the coveted head of government post was a scenario that Kumaraswamy would not have even dreamt of.
The Congress, obviously, had learnt some lessons from the way it was outwitted in Goa. Its central leaders were in Bangalore as the final numbers started to take shape and in a position to strategise and act quickly on how to, somehow, keep the BJP from forming a government in the state.
There really was no other way to form a non-BJP government. Kumaraswamy had joined hands with the BJP in the past, much against his father's wishes, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda. A few days ago, Deve Gowda had warned that he would disown Kumaraswamy, his eldest son, if he went with the BJP, even as Rahul Gandhi in his campaing toured in the state was describing the JD(S) as the B-team of the BJP.
The Gowda family has put itself through many convolutions to maintain its hold on the party and remain an important component in Karnataka politics. But it has been out of the limelight for close to 10 years now. This elections was critical for Kumaraswamy to keep his hold over the party and regain some credibility that he still does matter in state politics.
Kumaraswamy had no great reason to be partial to the Congress. The outgoing chief minister was once a senior JD(S) party member who had ditched Deve Gowda some years ago. He was also responsible for getting about seven key JD(S) members to defect to the Congress just before these elections. Siddaramiah also threw an open challenge to the JD(S) chief on the poll fight in the areas that are considered the JD(S)’s traditional strongholds in the old Mysore region.
JD(S), now, has had the last laugh and sweet revenge on Siddaramiah who lost to the JD(S) in Chamundeshwari. The party has also managed to retain its numbers as predicted by most analysts. If there was any resentment against the Gowda family over its dominance in the party and the seats cornered by family members, it was not visible during the campaign. By all reports, Kumaraswamy had received a good response during his campaign tours and the Vokkaliga vote consolidated against the Congress.
Now to emerge as a potential chief minister, with the Congress agreeing to let Kumaraswamy serve out the full term with their support, is a major victory for the father-son duo and brings JD(S) more strength and support than it ever had. While it could well be the beginning of Siddaramiah’s decline in the party and state. And if the Congress decides to accept a deputy chief minister position, then the choice is likely to be Mallikarjun Kharge as was evident in the telling picture from the Raj Bhavan of Kharge, Kumaraswamy, Ghulam Nabi Azad, alongwith a totally isolated Siddaramiah, who probably had an inkling of the future when he said that this would be his last election.
If he does become chief minister, it will be the chance for Kumaraswamy, Kumar Anna to his followers, to maybe even achieve the stature that his father once enjoyed, and move beyond just being a Vokkaliga leader and a caste based party with a limited geographical base. The reluctant politician — Kumaraswamy’s first interest after completing his BSC degree was making films — he has emerged as his father’s successor in all respects after wresting the state presidentship of the JD(S) from his brother H D Revanna. He contested his first election in 1996 for the Lok Sabha but since 1999 has focussed on state politics, making Ramanagara seat his personal fiefdom. Anx Compared to some of his competitors in this election, Kumaraswamy’s wealth is modest, assets of Rs 43 crore, up from Rs 13 crore declared in 2013.
The author is former editor at The Week
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Updated Date: May 16, 2018 09:58 AM