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Last May, a crowd milled around Janata Dal (Secular) supremo H. D. Deve Gowda’s home in Bangalore where the needle—after a nail-biting end to the state elections—had finally come to rest. Gowda, and his son H.D. Kumaraswamy, were the men of the moment. And, a tumultuous week later, the father-son duo were at the centre of a political panoply that set the tone for what’s now the key word in the 2019 election season—alliance. Elections: Number Game
Therefore, it was with some surprise that many received news of Gowda’s pointsman in Delhi, Kunwar Danish Ali, joining the BSP. Ali, party insiders say, has been one of Gowda’s aides for long. He’d been visible this past year as the JD(S) opened up a hotline with Rahul Gandhi. “The love and affection he gave to me is incomparable. That will continue,” Ali tells Outlook, explaining that his move would enable him to contest elections in home-state UP, something he couldn’t have done on a JD(S) ticket. “It was also his wish that I should enter the Lok Sabha,” says Ali. “Nobody can break my relationship with Gowda and Kumaraswamy.”
Gowda and Mayawati had a pre-poll seat-sharing pact for the 2018 Karnataka elections—Ali, again, was instrumental in making that happen. Among Gowda’s longstanding lieutenants is Y.S.V. Datta, a former party legislator who was for long its spokesman. But, as a party insider put it, “if Gowda wants grassroots information, he’ll go to his old friends in (hometown) Paduvalahippe. And, just as easily seek out experts if he wants advice”.
The Gowda family, despite its internal power wrangles, is closely-knit, observers say. While Kumaraswamy is the party’s face, his elder brother Revanna manages the family’s pocketborough of Hassan. Besides, there are siblings and their spouses with varied professional backgrounds (former bureaucrat, surgeon etc) who stay away from the limelight.
Kumaraswamy’s inner circle comprised a clutch of five-six former party legislators, including Zameer Ahmed Khan, Chaluvarayaswamy, and H.C. Balkrishna. It was a coterie that had stood by him in 2006 when he had made a dramatic bid to seize power and become Karnataka CM, defying his father. But that circle had fallen out. “The situation was different. Now, it’s him and Gowdaji,” says a party leader. These days, for political decisions, Kumaraswamy relies on two-three cabinet ministers. On occasion, Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar too advises him.