The political cartoonists in Karnataka are having a field day lampooning JDS chief HD Kumaraswamy after his recent U-turn on the controversial farm bills and farmers agitation. Some have even replaced JDS symbol “the woman with a haystack” with “Kumaraswamy carrying a haystack in a saffron colour saree”, aptly describing the current status of JDS.
Within 48 hours of him opposing the farm bills and extending support to the ongoing agitation, Gowda’s son and former chief minister did a somersault by voting with the BJP on the farm bills and staying away from the agitation. He has even called the farmers leaders businessmen who are agitating for personal gains, inviting the wrath of protestors.
The main opposition Congress, which ruled the state with him just a year ago, has now declared a war on the Gowda clan, calling them the most unreliable, unethical, power hungry family with no concern for the farmers or anyone.
The Gowdas call themselves Sons of the Soil (meaning farmers) and never miss an opportunity to show their “concern” for the peasants. But, their recent “betrayal” has not gone down well with their own voters and the party cadres. After backing the farm bill in the state legislature, a visibly nervous Kumaraswamy is now on an overdrive to defend his decision by issuing a series of statements and tweeting non-stop. In all, he has posted 16 tweets in English “clarifying” his stand and attacking the ones who are questioning him.
Let those criticizing me, scrutinize my pro-farmer stands and study our pro-farmer programmes. Being a person who is walking the path of Deve Gowda who hails from farming community and rose from the dust, both myself and JD (S) will not deceive the soil and sons of soil.16/16— H D Kumaraswamy (@hd_kumaraswamy) December 9, 2020
Not surprisingly, his father, the party patriarch and farmer Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda is maintaining a radio silence over the unfolding developments. A few days ago, he was vocal about the farm laws, criticising the BJP governments in both Karnataka and New Delhi.
Those who understand Karnataka politics know that whenever the son does something unthinkable for short term gains, father hits the mute button to protect himself from criticism. But, he still pulls the strings and can’t wash off his hands.
A large number of people are aware of the dramas Gowdas stage in tricky situations like this. Saying something today and doing exactly the opposite next day is not new to them. In fact the Gowdas, particularly Kumaraswamy, is known for his U-turns and rank opportunism.
After his party’s pitiable performance in the recent bypolls, Kumaraswamy is moving closer to BJP to save his family empire, allege his rivals.
In the last three months, he has met his old nemesis and the incumbent chief minister BS Yediyurappa at least half a dozen times. Some meetings lasted for an hour triggering wild speculations across political circles. Some say he is planning to back BSY, if the party high command dumps him. Some argue that he is trying to impress the BJP high command in New Delhi by siding with them and attacking the Congress.
Gowda’s third son HDK was first elected to Lok Sabha in 1996 from Kanakapura (now Bengaluru Rural) on a Janata Dal ticket. In a quirk of fate, his chief minister father Gowda, became the Prime Minister and the fortunes of the family changed overnight and forever.
After the total decimation of their newly found party JDS in the 1999 general elections to both Assembly and Lok Sabha, HDK had to cool his feet till 2004.
A clever operator, whom some dub as a “dealer”, he staged a coup in January 2006 by toppling his own party backed Congress government in the state. He walked over to his “ideological opponents” BJP with his MLAs and became chief minister. His father Gowda shed tears in public calling his son a betrayer. But in reality he was the mastermind.
Twenty months later, the same Kumaraswamy refused to honour their 20-20 agreement by not handing over the baton of CM to BJP. He once again donned the “secular” clothes by throwing out “saffron” robes. Fighting elections on HDK’s “betrayal” plank, Yediyurappa rode to power in 2008.
During the 2009 Parliament elections, HDK had kept himself away from the Congress, which wanted him to back them officially. According to insiders, he was playing with both Congress and BJP till the last minute. A day before the results, he rode to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s house covering his face with newspapers, avoiding the waiting media. Apparently he demanded a Cabinet berth for himself in return for the support to UPA government. The next day, Congress won big and HDK was down in the dumps with just three seats. After pleading with the late Ahmed Patel for over a week, he managed to meet Sonia Gandhi. This time he offered unconditional support and there was no media to cover him.
In 2018, he became chief minister for the second time with just 37 JDS MLAs with the support of 80 Congress MLAs. That uneasy arrangement did not last long and the government collapsed in just 14 months paving way for the return of Yediyurappa at the helm.
HDK blamed his old enemy Siddaramaiah for his plight and the latter called HDK an unprincipled rank opportunist whose greed did him in finally.
By backing the farm bills, HDK has shot himself in the leg, say some analysts. Because JDS is a party of the peasants and his U-turn is now being seen as a betrayal of the cause. Perhaps, he has realised the blunder and is now is on an offensive mode to contain the damage. But, the damage has already been done.
With the wily old Gowda aging and the JDS in shambles, Kumaraswamy’s gambits may not pay off in future.