No parachuting journalist can question the wisdom of the man who has toured the length and breadth of Karnataka not just for vote-catching but through the whole of last year. Even on the campaign trail,H D Kumaraswamy claims to be way ahead of the rest. He has exhausted 90 out of the 224 constituencies so far,doing more roadshows than helihopping.
Believe it or not, he prefaces before he reels off his psephological projection : 35 to 40 seats for the BJP,70 to 75 for the Congress,5 to 15 for B S Yeddyurappa,and for his very own Janata Dal (Secular) 100 plus. It is the plus part he is working on in the last lap of the campaign. Another 15 seats and we touch the magic figure.
With the Gowda clan,magic is the key, chips in a retired civil servant who served father and son. How else do you think Deve Gowda became the countrys PM? With that the last of the rationalists in Bangalore secretariat turned believer.
Kumaraswamy emerges relaxed and forthcoming,with no mark of blessings on his forehead. Outside the hotel a little magic does await him. Among those gathered to wave off the leader is Hussain,a trained magician from Hassan. Also a street singer,he plays on a bamboo ektara the song he knows best,Mere joota hai Japani…
Udboor village,Kumaraswamys first stop,seems to have caught up with the Bollywood spirit of the fifties that the Raj Kapoor song evokes. There is cheer and hope. The scheduled tribe colony of Nayakas is anything but squalid. The low-roofed row of tenements looks clean. The cows and calves lounge comfortably in cattle sheds upgraded with cement walls and asbestos roof. The leader in the open jeep seems quite at home as he drives up the entire length of the colony.
A cellphone-carrying voter wonders for a moment whether it is a Congress event but reiterates his loyalty to HD Swami. A local pollster explains that far more informed voters and even Congress functionaries have trans-party loyalties and the JD(S) is banking on precisely this in some sectors.
The campaign crowd surges ahead,duly cheered and ceremonially welcomed but remarkably causing little disruption. None including the overzealous cops block the bikers going to work or the women on their chores. There is more respect for everyday life in this small suburban settlement than in the big towns and metropolises often crippled by VIP movement or state functions. No wonder Kumaraswamy spoke hardly any politics other than highlighting the local flavour of his party,as Mysorean as the masala dosa. He listed at length everyday issues like drinking water,power for homes and farmers,scholarships for children and healthcare for the aged.
People in these parts arent buying any overstatement. That was reserved for the pressman from Delhi who was told to go ahead and quote in full,Money is flowing. Believe it or not,under the very nose of the election observers,policemen are carrying cash for some key candidates
Why cant the former CM complain? No use,he says. His focus at the moment is on the magic number. Which might well appear from behind the sulphurous fumes of crackers burst to clear his way.