Bengaluru:More than a 100 days since H.D. Kumaraswamy became Karnataka chief minister, the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S) leader continues to live at his private residence in J.P.Nagar in Bengaluru—a home he believes is one of the reasons for his political fortune. Kumaraswamy became chief minister despite his party winning only 37 out of the state’s 224 legislative constituencies.
Unlike his predecessors, or his own 20 months at the top post in 2006 when he either stayed at Anugraha or Cauvery—the two official residences allocated for a chief minister—the 59-year-old leader has chosen his private home.
Though Kumaraswamy continues to be considered a “liberal" in the ritualistic and religious household of former Prime Minister and his father H.D. Deve Gowda, he has turned more devout since he became chief minister, having visited 53 places of worship.
However, his belief in his “lucky home" has turned a quiet residential neighbourhood into a fortress with barricades, heavy police deployment and the rush of visitors and supporters, sometimes through the day. Not to mention cordoning off traffic for 15km every day to allow his convoy to reach “Krishna", the chief minister’s home office.
“Everyone in that family is religious and ritualistic. Kumaraswamy has also turned quite religious in the last couple of months," said Tanveer Ahmed, a JD(S) spokesperson and long-time friend of the Kumaraswamy.
Ahmed is quick to clarify that Kumaraswamy, unlike others in the family, does not believe in going to astrologers nor attributes the latter’s need to reside at his private residence to superstition. He says that the care with which Kumaraswamy and his wife renovated the house a couple of years ago is the reason for this attachment.
Kumaraswamy’s belief pales in comparison to others in his family, especially his brother, public works department minister H.D. Revanna.
Revanna, who sports a chain made of cardamom to ward off bad omen among other colourful accessories that may have other religious purposes, travelled from Bengaluru to Holenarsipura in Hassan district or almost 350km every day for several weeks after he was allegedly advised against spending the night anywhere else as it would bring him “bad luck". He was then allocated an official residence, but Revanna moved in only when the house was made vastu-compliant.
The Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) cites two other non-superstitious reasons to support Kumaraswamy’s right to a private residence.
“There are only two official buildings where the chief minister can live in Bengaluru. One is ‘Cauvery’ where Siddaramaiah currently resides, and the second is ‘Anugraha’, which is the home of the Lokayukta," an official with the CMO said, requesting not to be named. He added that it is easier for doctors to keep check on the chief minister’s health at the private residence.
Some others close to Kumaraswamy say the CM thinks that changing his home would take away his post, which he genuinely believes would not be possible without divine intervention.
Though its alliance partner, Congress, is in turmoil with growing factionalism, the CM believes God is on his side and will help him complete his five-year term in office.
Leaders like B.S.Yeddyurappa of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are not far behind when it comes to such practices. The 75-year-old Lingayat strongman, who was forced to step down as CM in 2011 over corruption charges, decided the date on which he will resign as advised by an astrologer.
Several others who have known the Gowda family over the decades say that everything that the JD(S) does is dictated or determined by an astrologer. “They do not do anything before consulting with an astrologer first," one of the two people cited above said.
JD(S) had fixed a time of 2.12 pm for the swearing-in of its first set of 25 cabinet ministers with Revanna going first; however, it was delayed by a few minutes, causing much anxiety to Revanna, the person cited above said.
Deve Gowda, his wife and both his sons visited Tirupati in July on the eve of the Lunar eclipse, termed Blood Moon, to ward off evil forces.
“They check with the astrologer before distributing tickets to check if the candidate will win in elections," the second person cited above said. Recalling an incident in 2009, the person said the Gowda family conducted several rituals after a snake had entered the family home in Bengaluru.
The words “Government’s work is God’s work", engraved at the entrance of Vidhana Soudha, may have gained a new meaning under Kumaraswamy.