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End of the road for Deve Gowda?

He looked rather forlorn on Wednesday, calling it the 'saddest day' of his life, as his son, H D Kumaraswamy, led a breakaway faction of the Janata Dal (Secular) to the Raj Bhavan and announced the withdrawal of support from the coalition government.

But was H D Deve Gowda, the formidable leader of Karnataka's political arena, really aggrieved or was he, wily politician that he is, just playing out his favourite role of kingmaker, but with a twist?

If rumours scorching Bangalore are to be believed, the rift between father and son is contrived. Kumaraswamy has, apparently, been given Gowda's blessings to seek the post of chief minister in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The past couple of years, routine party affairs and management have been handled by two of his four sons, H D Revanna and Kumaraswamy. They have stayed at the grassroots and quelled growing discontentment among the party cadres about the 'lopsided' alliance with the Congress.

While Revanna remains in his father's shadow, Kumaraswamy has stepped out. The 46 MLAs who accompanied him to Raj Bhavan were not there out of coercion but because Kumaraswamy now commands allegiance from most of the party members.

Those standing by Gowda, it seems, are there only because they have no following themselves. Despite being senior, leaders like P G R Sindhia and Deputy Chief Minister M P Prakash have little grassroots support.

Where does this leave Deve Gowda - the man who has steered Karnataka politics for over three decades, rising like the proverbial phoenix, every time his mettle has been doubted?

Sources close to the JD(S) say that, for all his public posturing, Gowda is aware that his popularity as the mannina maga (son of the soil) has now eroded, maybe even beyond redemption.

This may well be why he is said to be covertly supporting Kumaraswamy while the latter forges an alliance with the BJP, a party that Gowda has attacked viciously in the past.

"His pride will not allow him to publicly join with the BJP but if his son can become chief minister by doing so, he may not mind backing him in private," says a former legislator, who did not wish to be named.

But if Kumaraswamy has really broken ties with his father, Gowda will need to summon up his political will and experience to get out of this situation, unsullied, if not victorious.

Also read: Complete Coverage: Karnataka - A coalition's fall

Text: Chinmayee Manjunath
Photographs: Ashok Vahie

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