Bengaluru: Janata Dal (Secular), or JDS, one of India’s oldest regional parties, has bounced back to the limelight winning crucial votes from key constituencies in the Karnataka elections. It is leading in 44 seats, as of 10.17 am, according to Election Commission data and media reports.

As of 10.03 am on Tuesday, G.T. Deve Gowda was leading with 23052 votes as against Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah at 11566 votes from the Chamundeshwari constituency.

Ever since Siddaramaiah’s name was officially announced as the Congress candidate from Chamundeshwari, G.T. Deve Gowda’s status has seen radical transformation.

The party led by 85-year old socialist patriarch H. D. Deve Gowda, JDS national president, was formed in 1999, and has its origin in the Janata Party formed post emergency era in 1977. It reached its peak when Deve Gowda became prime minister in the United Front government in 1996. In 2013, they won 40 seats.

The JDS is seen as a party of the dominant Vokkaliga caste, who are spread across 61 assembly seats, mostly in Karnataka’s southern districts.

The Vokkaligas are a crucial vote bank in a cliffhanger election. A hung verdict puts Gowda in a position to be kingmaker, if not his son H. D. Kumaraswamy the king himself. Although leaders of both major parties, Congress and the BJP, have ruled out a post-poll alliance with the JDS, analysts say Gowda would hold the balance of power.

Gowda’s own preferences have not been easier to predict ever. Siddaramaiah outsmarted Gowda, his mentor, when he switched to Congress from JDS in 2006. The ties between the two have remained sour since then. But analysts have not completely vacuumed out the possibility of an alliance between the two in order to keep the BJP away from power.

On the other hand, Gowda, who has always positioned himself as a secular son of the soil leader, had said during the campaign that he will disown his son and the CM candidate, Kumaraswamy, if JD(S) chose to ally with BJP.

But then Dodde Gowda, a civil engineer diplomat who was in construction business once, would not have occupied the country’s powerful office if he was not a master of the realpolitik.

As much as his invariable luck, or his yearly special puja in Tirupati temple, his supporters credit his ability to network with both Congress and BJP at the same time as a reason for his largely successful career.

Gowda became Karnataka chief minister in 1994—a term marked by Cauvery and irrigation politics. And some analysts say his handling of water issues also led to Gowda eventually becoming India’s 11th prime minister in 1996, with the support of a coalition of divergent parties, including that of Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK whom he was fighting against on Cauvery as CM.

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