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The odd man out at Kumaraswamy's big moment

May 29, 2018 09:43 IST

Three guys stood out at the swearing-in ceremony of Deve Gowda's son, says Sudhir Bisht.
One was Akhilesh Yadav, the other was Tejashwi Yadav. And the third?

IMAGE: Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and JD-S General Secretary Danish Ali at the swearing-in ceremony of the Janata Dal-Secular-Congress coalition government in Bengaluru, May 23, 2018. Photograph: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI Photo

So the guy who stood third in the race was eventually granted the gold medal at the Karnataka political games!

H D Deve Gowda and Chennamma's younger son was sworn in as Karnataka's chief minister by the very man who had done his best to ensure that it didn't happen.

Vajubhai Vala, Karnataka's governor, who fought boldly and some may say barefacedly, had the Constitutional compulsion of administering the oath of office to a man who least deserved to be king.

It all happened last week in front of the Vidhana Soudha, with the television anchors bemoaning that barring Devraj Urs and another CM, anyone sworn in at this venue had to suffer the misfortune of falling well before the tenure ended.

So all credit to Kumaraswamy for not falling prey to that superstition.

Haradanahalli Devegowda Kumaraswamy, or simply Kumaraswamy -- which is another name for the Hindu god Murugan -- the man of the moment.


The gathering at Kumaraswamy's swearing-in had its ooh, aah and ouch moments.

Among the first leaders to troop in was the ever-smiling Akhilesh Yadav, the ex-CM of Uttar Pradesh who has fought the hegemony of his father and his cohorts in the Samajwadi Party.

Akhilesh may have lost the office of chief minister, but he has gained full control of his Samajwadi Party and a sense of satisfaction glows on his face.

He came in, waved at the crowd confidently and with a genuine sense of friendship with a state where he studied for his couple of engineering degrees.

Akhilesh, a contemporary of Rahul Gandhi, came alone and interacted with politicians several years older than him, with poise and dignity.

His newly acquired bua Mayawati walked in with the general secretary of her Bahujan Samaj Party, Satish Mishra. Mayawati met Akhilesh as an elder would meet a younger member of the extended family.

The young lad with folded hands bowed to the grand warrior of Indian politics and Mayawati seemed to have blessed him. This is the bonhomie that could lead to a lot of strategising in the saffron camp.

Kumaraswamy's parents walked in and JD-S General Secretary Danish Ali left everyone to receive them. Deve Gowda may have bent a bit due to age (he turned 85 on May 18) and his movements may have slowed down, but he looked sharp in acknowledging everyone's greetings.

He was the only male leader who shook hands with Mayawati and the latter took his palms in hers in reverence.

The grandsire of Karnataka politics hugged Akhilesh for a long, long, time. He was there meeting everyone with a sense of gratitude.

There were many other heavyweights, current and past, who appeared on the dais briefly. Many sat in the back row.

There was Chandrababu Naidu, who tried his best to steal the limelight by standing tall over the short statured leaders in the photo-op.

There was Ajit Singh, the founder-chief of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, with 0 members in the Lok Sabha and 0 members in the Rajya Sabha.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist was represented by who else but Sitaram Yechury. By his side was D Raja, leader of the 'national' party that has 1 seat in the Lok Sabha and another solitary seat in the Rajya Sabha.

What must have gone on in the minds of the JD-S supremo and the rag-tag combination that was on stage? I only have to read an old article by Sumit Mitra published in the India Today issue dated April 30, 1997. It talks about the key leaders of the United Front of the late 1990s then running the country.

'As chairman of the UF steering committee, Chandrababu Naidu's role was crucial. Yet the TDP chief rarely saw eye to eye with Deve Gowda, especially over the contentious Almatti dam issue.'

About Deve Gowda's relationship with Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav, who were both represented by their sons at Kumaraswamy's show, Mitra wrote, 'The two Yadavs had reasons to distrust Deve Gowda. Laloo felt victimised in the fodder scam while Mulayam thought the CBI was being used to nettle him over his alleged role in the ayurveda scam.'

And the Left Front's feelings about Deve Gowda are captured by Mitra as, 'It didn't take the leftists long to realise they had little say in the government. Deve Gowda ignored Marxist reservations about his economic policies while Indrajit Gupta remained home minister only in name.'

As per the India Today article from 1997, these key people in the United Front had a bone to pick with Deve Gowda. At Kumaraswamy's swearing-in ceremony, Deve Gowda displayed no trace of rancour or ill-will, nor did the sons of the two Yadavs..

The most interesting entry on stage was that of Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of Bengal. She met leaders on the dais, but ignored Yechury and Raja. Everyone stood up to greet Mamata, including Sharad Pawar and Sharad Yadav, but Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan didn't.

Mamata and Sonia Gandhi didn't meet each other with the warmth that was on display when the retired Congress president met Mayawati.

On the stage was D K Shiv Kumar, the Congress MLA who was largely responsible for doing an Amit Shah for his party.

He kept the Congress flock at a well known hideout and ensured that none of his party's elected reps went astray.

Shivakumar looked disgruntled as he was denied the deputy CMship, at least for now.

Also there putting on a brave front was Siddaramaiah, the man who was to be king but is now doomed to political hibernation.

Three guys stood out for me at the swearing-in ceremony of Deve Gowda's son.

One was Lalu Prasad's son, Tejashwi Yadav. The guy looks so likeable when compared to his father. He won the hearts of many when he touched Mamata and Sonia Gandhi's feet.

The second guy who gave a good impression was Akhilesh Yadav who appears to have gained the respect of all the Opposition leaders by the way he has conducted himself after his huge loss in last year's UP assembly election.

The third guy who stood out for me was Rahul Gandhi, but for the negative air that emitted from him.

The man at the helm of the Indian National Congress still needs to lean on an ailing mother when it comes to big stage events.

He looked like a 'gwachi gaay', which in Punjabi means a lost cow. How Sonia must have wanted her son to be more like Akhilesh or at least like Tejashwi.

The grandest of political legacies can't buy you a grand personality. This is my most notable impression of H D Kumaraswamy's swearing-in ceremony.

Sudhir Bisht, PhD, Delhi-based author and columnist, tweets at @sudhir_bisht

Sudhir Bisht