When Basavaraj Bommai (in pic) took over as Karnataka chief minister in end-July, the ‘compliment’ that became news came from a predecessor—H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular). Kumaraswamy told reporters that Bommai was a friend and, to him, a CM from the Janata parivar.
Bommai’s political roots trace back to the Janata Party—his father, the late S.R. Bommai ,was Karnataka CM in 1988-89. Back in the mid-1990s, Basavaraj Bommai served as political secretary to another Janata Dal chief minister, J.H. Patel, while going on to become a member of the legislative council later that decade. Following the party’s split, Bommai was in the Janata Dal (United) till 2008 when he joined the BJP.
Incidentally, one of Bommai’s courtesy calls in his first week was to JD(S) patriarch H.D. Deve Gowda. Several of the ministers in Karnataka’s BJP government have their roots in either the Janata Dal or the Congress—they had been ministers in the earlier dispensation led by B.S. Yediyurappa as well. For the record, even Siddaramaiah who headed the Congress government between 2013 and 2018 came from the same Janata Party stock. He had joined Congress in 2006.
Kumaraswamy’s comments seemed to have hit a delicate spot just when the BJP is settling into a change of guard following several months of dissidence. Speaking to reporters last week, Bommai dismissed the remark as ‘mischievous’. “He (Kumaraswamy) knows under what circumstances I left the Janata Dal,” he said. “I’m a genuine BJP karyakarta and a genuine BJP CM.”
By Ajay Sukumaran in Bangalore