Bengaluru: When outgoing chief minister Siddaramaiah switched loyalties to the Congress, one would have thought that he once-and-for-all burnt his bridges with the Janata Dal (Secular) and its chief H.D. Deve Gowda, who was his mentor.

But with the Congress willing to join hands with the JD(S) to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) out of power in Karnataka, Deve Gowda has yet again emerged as the man who is in the right place at the right time. His son, H.D. Kumaraswamy, might even get the chief minister’s post as a compromise, making Gowda the king and not just the kingmaker as analysts expected.

The JD(S) draws its support from people of the dominant Vokkaliga caste, who are spread across 61 assembly seats in Karnataka’s southern districts. With JD(S) winning almost 37 seats, some 17 seats higher than its previous performance in 2013, without which no party can expect to come to power in Karnataka.

At least for the time, all roads in Karnataka politics, once again, are leading to Padmanabha Nagar in south Bengaluru, where the 85-year-old socialist patriarch Deve Gowda lives.

Although leaders of both the Congress and BJP ruled out a post-poll alliance with JD(S), Deve Gowda had the last laugh, sitting in a position of power. He is someone who is credited by his supporters for his ability to network both with the Congress and the BJP, which is seen as a reason for his largely successful career. Gowda, who has always positioned himself as a secular son of the soil leader, had also said during the campaign that he will disown his son and chief ministerial candidate Kumaraswamy, if JD(S) chose to ally with the BJP.

Perhaps it was his experience, becoming the chief minister in 1994—a term marked by Cauvery and irrigation politics and his time as India’s 11th prime minister in 1996, with the support of a coalition of divergent parties, including that of J. Jayalalithaa’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, whom he was fighting against on Cauvery as chief minister, helped the JD(S) bag the position of chief minister this time.

“Deve Gowda is a very shrewd political operator," said James Manor, a professor at School of Advanced Study, London, considered one of the foremost experts on elections in Karnataka. “If the alliance with Congress succeeds with Kumaraswamy as chief minister, the JD(S) will continue to be a force unless it makes some very bad decisions in government as it has done sometimes in the past."

yunus.lasania@livemint.com

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