What played out in Karnataka in the last few days looked like a sublime portrayal of a tightly-packed script of a political drama. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) became the single largest party by winning 104 seats of the 222 that went to polls on 12 May. But the first claimants to forming the government were the parties that came second and third – Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), respectively. After forming a post-poll alliance in a lightning speed, under the leadership of HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S), they rushed to the Governor to stake claim to the throne. The drama began when Governor Vajubhai Vala decided to give a twist. He not only invited the BJP instead to form the government but also gave the saffron party 15 days to prove majority in the Vidhan Soudha.
Shocked but not the one to back down, the Congress knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court in the midnight pleading with the judiciary to “save democracy”. Acting on the petition, the apex court cut down the fortnight given to the 75-year-old BS Yeddyurappa, the man selected the leader of the BJP legislative party, to just 24 hours. On 19 May 2018, Yeddyurappa, who had taken oath of office as the Chief Minister of Karnataka on 17 May, resigned just before the vote of confidence. The moment of Yeddyurappa’s exit was watched by all: the Lingayat strongman turning towards the ornate door of the house after making what has been dubbed an “emotional” speech and exit the hall.
The cameras then turned towards the man who will take oath as the Chief Minister of Karnataka on 23 May 2018 – Haradanahalli Devegowda Kumaraswamy. Before the 15 May counting, everyone had labelled Kumaraswamy as the kingmaker and not the king. The 58-year-old third son of former prime minister HD Deve Gowda was not the pick of any of the psephologists for the top post – most of the analysts had either given the seat to former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah or to Yeddyurappa. Yet, the fact is that Congress, to outwit the BJP and its belligerent tactics, unanimously anointed Kumaraswamy the king and left the reigns of the hastily-formed alliance in his hands. As Yeddyurappa made his exit, Kumaraswamy grabbed the hand of Congress leader DK Shivakumar and raised it to symbolise the strength of the alliance of the two parties.
On Wednesday (23 May), HD Kumaraswamy was sworn-in as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, and the ceremony was attended by a host of opposition leaders.
As Kumaraswamy begins his second innings as the CM of Karnataka, here is a quick look at the past of the JD(S) leader who entered politics from the film industry.
Kumaraswamy had the first taste of electoral politics when he won the Lok Sabha seat of Kanakapura in 1996. The election was fractured but an alliance was formed and his father, HD Deve Gowda, was picked to lead India as its 11th Prime Minister. But in the world of politics, the winds change their course faster than sound waves. Within two years, India went to polls again and Kumaraswamy lost his deposit from the same seat. He was defeated by a Congress candidate.
He then contested the 1999 Karnataka assembly elections from Sathanur – a taluk located in what is now Bengaluru Rural Lok Sabha constituency. In that election, Kumaraswamy was defeated by DK Shivakumar of the Congress – the same man who has now engineered the JD(S) leader’s climb to the throne after the 2018 verdict.
In 2004, HD Kumaraswamy contested from and won the Ramanagaram seat. That year, the JD(S) won 58 seats – 48 more than in 1999. He has since been winning from the same seat, located in Ramanagara district in south Karnataka region.
A fractured verdict resulted in the formation of an alliance between the JD(S) and the Congress. The alliance government, a first in Karnataka, was led by Congress’ Dharam Singh. Within a year of the alliance, a rift developed between the JD(S) and the Congress over Siddaramaiah, who had formed a separate political party supported by the Congress after his expulsion from the JD(S).
Kumaraswamy was the one who took the decision to pull the plug on the alliance in February 2006 and aligned with the BJP – the party which had emerged as the single largest with 79 seats in the 2004 assembly elections. The BJP agreed to make Kumaraswamy the CM for 20 months after which power was to be transferred to the BJP’s CM candidate – BS Yeddyurappa.
In October 2007, when it was time for Yeddyurappa to take charge, Kumaraswamy refused to relinquish power. President’s Rule was imposed. After 35 days, Kumaraswamy and the BJP came back to terms, and Yeddyurappa was sworn-in as the 19th Chief Minister of Karnataka. But the truce did not last as the two parties disagreed again over sharing of ministries. Elections were called again, and HD Kumaraswamy stood no chance this time as BJP had the numbers and formed government for the first time in a southern state.
As Karnataka went through periods of political uncertainty and a five-year stable Congress government under Siddaramaiah, Kumaraswamy, too, quit as Karnataka JD(S) president before returning as state president in 2014. He has since then focused on strengthening his party in the region it dominates – south Karnataka, which has a sizeable number of Vokkaliga community to which the Deve Gowdas belong.
In the 2018 assembly elections, Kumaraswamy comfortably won from both the seats he contested – Ramanagaram and Channapatna. Siddaramaiah, who too contested from two constituencies, lost one – Chamundeshwari – to GT Deve Gowda, a Vokkaliga strongman.
HD Kumaraswamy, who was a filmmaker before turning to politics, had his first marriage in 1986. He has a son, actor Nikhil Gowda, from his first marriage. In 2006, Kumaraswamy married actress Radhika, who is about 27 years younger than him. They have a daughter. His marriage to Radhika came under the scanner due to allegations of bigamy, which is illegal under law.
Kumaraswamy also faced heat in the Janathakal mining scam in which he was accused of pressurising a bureaucrat into renewing the licence of a mining company during his term as the Chief Minister of Karnataka.
In April this year, Kumaraswamy had claimed that he would be the king and not kingmaker in the 2018 elections. On Wednesday, the curtains on the drama in Karnataka may finally fall. But the unpredictable game of politics continues to thwart the most ‘reputed’ and ‘experienced’ of the analysts.