Home >politics >policy >H.D. Kumaraswamy: From underdog to top dog

Bengaluru: The Karnataka election results, apart from displaying the fickle nature of the state’s electorate in not giving the mandate to any one party, has shrouded it with a cloud of uncertainty that comes with coalition politics.

With the Janata Dal (Secular), JD(S), deciding to take Congress support, state president H.D. Kumaraswamy, who is often viewed as a sub-text of his master political tactician father, could become from the dark horse-in-the-running to actually being the chief minister.

The Congress with 78 seats moved swiftly to join forces with Kumaraswamy-led JD(S) which has won 38 seats (including one from its pre-poll partner) to cross the halfway mark of 112 of the 222 that went to the polls on 12 May. More importantly, to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who secured 104 seats, out of Karnataka.

Despite getting the lowest amount of seats, Kumaraswamy and his father, former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, had the national parties queueing up outside their homes; the BJP asking for support and the Congress offering support.

Though the JD(S) has often been written off as a regional player by Delhi, the party has proved political pundits wrong time and again as it continues to hold the balance of power in the state and is possibly the first number on both the BJP and Congress’s speed dials, in times of fractured verdicts.

His political strategies aside, Kumaraswamy is known for his managerial ability—a trait he carries from his earlier career in the film industry.

A huge Kannada movie buff and ardent fan of late matinee idol Dr. Rajkumar, Kumaraswamy used to run a theatre, Channambika, in Hassan where he was involved in distribution. “He did distribution, and is very good in production and post-production," said Tanveer Ahmed, a close associate of Kumaraswamy and national spokesperson of the JD(S).

Kumarawamy’s skills in post-production have served him well in politics to remain a key player in state politics, irrespective of the outcome.

“Unfortunately he is non-theatrical," Ahmed says, adding that “he should have really watched people acting," almost implying that this skill set would have helped him compete against his competitor Siddaramaiah—a protégé of his father.

With a leg up due to his family, Kumaraswamy was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1996 and in 2004 entered the state assembly, when the party won 58 seats, as against a pre-poll prediction of nine by multiple exit polls.

Siddaramaiah became deputy chief minister when the JD(S) lent its support to the late Dharam Singh-led Congress. But Siddaramaiah, who had his eyes set on the top post, was overlooked by Deve Gowda when the JD(S) broke away from the Congress to ally with the BJP, forcing the former to exit the party.

Kumaraswamy became chief minister for around 20 months but the party pulled out of the coalition when it was the BJP’s turn at the top post, as per the arrangement. These 20 months that he served as the chief minister, has been the highlight of Kumaraswamy’s “Nanagondu Avakasha Kodi" (give me one chance) campaign, in the run-up to the 2018 Karnataka elections, only to be handed the CM’s post on a platter by outgoing chief minister Siddaramaiah.

Ramesh Babu, another JD(S) leader shares how the CM’s security would have a tough time as Kumaraswamy would make unscheduled stops as soon as he saw people, earning him mass following.

But Kumaraswamy had some insecurities, especially knowing that many others were getting closer to his father. “Adhikaram Yudha Bhayam," Ahmed says, quoting from a Sanskrit shloka, often used by Deve Gowda to state that Kumaraswamy was aware that wherever there is power, there will be conflict. More so, in 2018.

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