Unlike his father and former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda in his younger days, H. D. Kumaraswamy is not one to hitch up his dhoti till his knee and walk briskly doing door-to-door campaigning. A vehicle drops him all the way to the dais.
But clearly, this has not dented the connect the former Chief Minister and Janata Dal State Chief has with the people. Once he climbs the dais, amidst cheers and slogans at Narendra village in Dharwad constituency, he manages to strike a chord with the people.
His speech is rhetorical, giving room for interaction with people. “Has the government not stopped paying pension to some of you?” he asks, referring to many old age, widow and disability pensioners being denied benefits in the name of “streamlining” the scheme. Instantly, there are shouts of “Yes!” from the audience.
“There is acute water shortage here. Did those whom you voted to power last time ever bother to quench your thirst?” he goes on. “No, no..” the reply is quicker and louder from the audience.
Egged on by the response, he goes on: “Those who came to power with big promises camped more in Bangalore to solve their internal party clashes and left people to fend for themselves.”
He then goes on to say what he would do if the JD(S) comes to power. He concludes with a request: “Please think and vote... Give me an opportunity this time.” In the audience, there are skeptics, but quite a few seem to be swayed by his rhetoric.
Mr. Kumaraswamy has been focusing more on the northern part of the State, which is not the party’s stronghold. He has been touring extensively in the rural areas here for the last year, long before the election fever caught on. Despite the lack of a strong base, he has proved himself a crowd-puller at public meetings here. People recognise him thanks to the innovative ‘Gram Vastavya’ (village stay) programme, started during his tenure, when he went and stayed in the homes of villagers to closely interact with them and know their problems. It remains to be seen if the crowds will translate into votes.