While all other political parties in Karnataka have put their symbols on placards, banners and buntings, the Janata Dal (Secular) has always chosen to use a “living” symbol of a woman carrying a bundle of hay.

The party got the symbol when the JD(S) was formed in July 1999 after the split of the Janata Dal party.

The cynosure of all eyes at all party rallies is Gouri, draped in a green sari and holding a hay stack on her head. Gouri is the only one who stands “silently” in a corner at all the party rallies.

Interestingly, Gouri is not a woman. It is a man in the garb of woman. But party workers affectionately refer to him as Gouri.

He is Srinivasa Mayanna of Banasamudra village in Malavalli taluk, an ardent fan of the former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda. He appeared as the party’s living symbol for the first time in 2002, when Mr. Gowda contested in the byelection from the Kanakapura Lok Sabha constituency.

“Being a fan of the former Prime Minister, I draped a sari just for fun. I was convinced I was effectively representing the party symbol, so I assumed the role of a woman carrying a haystack,” Mr. Srinivas told The Hindu.

But, despite serving the party for more than 13 years, Mr. Srinivas, who has two children, is living in abject poverty.

“I am working as a labourer. I have neither land nor a house to live in. I have to look after my aged parents. In her old age, my mother, Chennamma, sells vegetables and supports the family,” he said.

When asked about the reaction of the family to him appearing as a woman in public, Mr. Srinivasa said; “Nobody objects to my appearance as a woman. My children are happy to watch me on TV.”

He is still hopeful of party leaders acknowledging his contribution and helping him to lead a decent life.

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