Updated: May 20, 2018 9:39:16 am
Shivkumar Aaradhya had placed his trust — not so much in his party’s tactics in the Karnataka Assembly in three hours — but in Kaliamma and the “magic number”. “I have just come from the temple in Mandya. We broke 112 coconuts, worshipped her with a garland of 112 lemons, 112 green chillies, and pink roses. The goddess will take care of it,” said the 42-year-old BJP worker from Kergoda village in south Karnataka, as he stood a few paces away from his leader B S Yeddyurappa’s residence in Bengaluru.
On Saturday afternoon, the then chief minister’s house lay near-deserted, with only a group of policemen huddled in a group. Aaradhya was one of the two BJP workers present. “What is the plan? That I don’t know. That is for the big leaders to decide. I can only pray,” said Aaradhya, a saffron stole thrown over his bush shirt.
As it turned out, neither prayers nor tactics brought the BJP close to the magic number of 112 MLAs. Less than 20 minutes later, as Kannada channels predicted that Yeddyurappa would resign in a few hours, Aaradhya made his way to the BJP office, his brows creased with worry.
Through the day, the houses of key leaders of Karnataka politics lay inert, curtains drawn, journalists politely declined entry — as if awaiting a sign.
At JD(S) chief H D Deve Gowda’s house in Padmanabhanagar, that sign came with the rat-tat-tat of crackers bursting, a few minutes after Yeddyurappa had walked out of the Assembly. While H D Kumaraswamy had herded his MLAs to the Vidhana Soudha, Deve Gowda followed the proceedings on television inside. “He was not nervous at all. We knew they did not have the numbers,” said Rakesh Jain, the JD(S) state general secretary.
In the crowd of party workers milling around, Jain stood out not just for his burly frame, gold-rimmed glasses, the twin tattoos on his forearm or even the emerald brooch pinned to his shirt pocket — that of a woman holding aloft a bunch of hay, the JD(S) symbol — but also because of his unshod feet. “I had taken a vow that I would not wear shoes till Kumar-anna (Kumaraswamy) became the chief minister. I walked barefoot from Bengaluru to Chamundi temple in Mysore just for this,” said the 29-year-old gold trader from Maddur. He denied that the JD(S)-Congress alliance would struggle to take off on the ground.
As if on cue, walked in Belly, wearing a green sari, a brocade blouse, a pair of gay-green nosepins, and holding aloft a Congress flag amid the JD(S) ones. The 23-year-old social activist and trans-woman said there was an air of anticipation through the day. “I was outside, near the signal. But in the afternoon, the buzz began to build up, the bigger cars drove in, the traffic built up. I knew we had won,” said Belly, who had campaigned for both the Congress and JD(S). “It would have been good if they had allied before, but then there would have been a fierce fight over tickets,” she said.
Like the last few evenings, the Bengaluru sky darkened with the promise of rain as the day wore on. Two boys ran off, with the two party flags in hand. As party workers waited patiently for Kumaraswamy to turn up, Belly made her prediction: “Who knew that Kumara-anna would become the CM? But now it is time for Deve Gowda sir too. He will be PM in 2019.”
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