H. D. Deve Gowda: Humble farmer’s rustic charm
Revanna, managing his father’s campaign, sat in the living room of his sprawling bungalow here, about 220 km west of Bangalore. He turned to a group of Janata Dal (S) workers, asking them to ‘take care’ of Kasaba and Halli Mysore — both have large concentrations of OBCs which traditionally tilted towards the Congress.
He issued some more instructions and then headed out to his own assembly seat, Holenarasipura, one of the seven segments of the Hasan Lok Sabha seat his father is contesting.
Around 11 am, the doddavaru stepped out of his room in the bungalow to offer pooja and partake of a frugal brunch — two chappatis and sabzi. “Barthini, barthini (I am on my way)” he kept assuring restive followers on his ever-ringing cellphone.
It was almost noon when Deve Gowda’s SUV headed for Ganjalgudi, a village 10 km away. On arrival, he settled on a culvert by the roadside and gestured to people gathered at a nearby temple to come out. “Some fellow will get to know that I met you at a temple and send me a notice that will be flashed across the country by TV networks,” he said.
Then he gently turned to a youth holding a towel over his head to protect himself from the blazing sun. “I have worked in the fields, just like you do," the 75-year-old said. "I am comfortable here (on the culvert) talking to my brothers.”
This is Vokkaliga heartland, the caste Gowda himself belongs to. At least 5.5 lakh of the 14.2 lakh voters of Hasan are Vokkaligas. But so are his rivals, B. Shivaram of the Congress and Hanume Gowda of the BJP. No doubt he towers among the candidates — the only Vokkaliga to have been a prime minister — but he is not taking any chances.
Gowda made no secret of his goal in the coming elections. “I want to see my party win enough seats so that I can play a key role at least within the Third Front,” he said. Insiders claimed he had set himself a target of 10 of Karnataka’s 28 Lok Sabha constituencies.
He got into a jeep without a roof, and this time used his towel as headgear. Every time he rose to speak, he swore by his party’s manifesto, holding out promises of writing off loans, supporting rural entrepreneurship, and medical insurance for those below poverty line.
“Our party wants to wipe your tears, and this is my last battle for the cause of the poor. Believe me, the Third Front will come to power and will write off all your loans,” he repeated at Hebbale, Vaddarahalli, Malipatna, and Handargi.
For Muslims, he had a sop too. “We’ll ban the Bajrang Dal and the Sri Rama Sene for attacking minorities in coastal areas once we win,” he said.
His trump card, however, was promises of development — a good road link to Hasan, government colleges for professional studies, cooperative dairy farming, a 1,000-acre SEZ and a proposed airport.
It was around 5 pm when Gowda hopped off the jeep at Konanur for his favorite meal of ragi ball and sambar made of greens. An hour later, he returned to the jeep and sped away to the next village, this time holding the towel against a steady drizzle. It grew cold as the sun steadily set.