A drama in four Acts with a twist in the tale

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: In the great political theatre that is Karnataka, two joint productions have come and gone. And a third has been hastily put together. But the climax is far from clear as the director H.D. Deve Gowda works diligently behind the scenes with his own clutch of script-writers.

What we have seen so far is a political drama in four Acts, with the chief playwright not always seeming to be in charge. The curtain has come down on the first two Acts. The third was a bit of an impromptu skit. Gowda has finalised the script for the fourth and hopefully the concluding part of the drama, but there could yet be a twist in the tale.

The drama opens with Gowda playing a pivotal role in the installation of the first coalition. The Congress has been drubbed by the voters, but Gowda dangles the sweet carrot of power in the name of keeping communal forces at bay. The Congress bites, but it’s Gowda’s JDS that does all the chomping.

The second Act pushes his son H.D. Kumaraswamy into the lead role. To “save” the JDS, he dumps the Congress. Like the Congress, the BJP, in its eagerness to grab power by hook or by crook, falls for it. Gowda stomps off the stage, feigns he has been done in, but in reality Kumaraswamy is only doing what the script demanded.

Gowda, who refuses to enter the green room for a while, discreetly watches from the sidelines the realisation of his life-long ambition of seeing one of his sons catapulted to the office of the Chief Minister. Their place in political history is assured: as the only father-son duo to have occupied the top post in the State.

Besides, as a bonus, he manages to get his party, occupying the third slot in the assembly, an unbroken 40-month tryst with power, while the numerically larger parties have had one only one stint each to their credit.

In the third Act, Gowda pushes a new and unexpected hero, M P Prakash, in a bid to befriend the Congress again, in the wake of the fall of the Kumaraswamy government due to the BJP pulling out in a huff. But the Congress once bitten is twice shy.

Gowda has to quickly revise the script.

But, wait, this time the side actors and bit players want a say. Unsure if they will get a role in a future production, they want the drama to go on as long as it can. They force the divorced couple to go in for a remarriage. B.S. Yediyurappa‘s installation in a way provides the oxygen.

The fourth Act has just begun, but Gowda’s working on more twists and turns. How the drama ends will depend on what type of climax the master playwright can think up. Can he give a bigger role to a protagonist not his own? Can he allow the drama to drag along without harming his script or his characters?

In working the climax, Gowda has another subplot to focus on: to punish the rest of the cast who showed the temerity of defying his diktat in demanding changes to his script.

To achieve this, has a crucial weapon in his armoury. A petition pending before the Speaker of the Assembly seeking the disqualification of Kumaraswamy and 39 others, who had raised the banner of revolt 21 months ago. Any decision in his favour by the Speaker, who is identified with him in the party, would result in 40 of the legislators being disqualified.

Gowda is certainly not worried about his party legislators losing their seats. This would pave the way for him to mount a fresh play—and he is confident of getting another troupe to dab the greasepaint.

(Mathihalli Madan Mohan, a stalwart of The Hindu and one of Karnataka’s best-informed political observers, will contribute frequently to churumuri.com)