On Wednesday afternoon, there were not many vehicles on the normally busy National Highway-7, off Chikkaballapur. But there was no dearth of JD(S) supporters on the six-lane highway.
Groups of people waving JD(S) flags were seen in almost every village between Chikkaballapur and Bagepalli. They were waiting for their leader H D Kumaraswamy who had stayed away from Chikkaballapur ever since he filed his nomination papers from this Lok Sabha constituency a fortnight ago, on March 26.
As Kumaraswamy’s convoy of over 10 SUVs reached Chitravathi on the outskirts of Chikkaballapur at 12.30 pm, two hours beyond schedule, the crowd there turned euphoric. A visibly tired Kumaraswamy stepped out of his SUV and received garlands from his supporters. He is pretty aware that he has not campaigned even once in the three Assembly segments of the district, which are part of the Chikkaballapur constituency.
Addressing his supporters, Kumaraswamy said: “I have been touring the entire State to canvass for the party candidates. I have not been able to come here. Each one of you should take up responsibility and campaign as if you are the candidate. Each one of you is a Kumaraswamy. Go to every village and seek votes for JD(S).”
As he gets into his vehicle, the euphoric crowd shouts: “Kumarannanige jayavagali”, and the motorcade moves towards Bagepalli. A kilometre ahead, Kumaraswamy spots a group of JD(S) supporters in front of a restaurant along the highway. As they try to rush towards his vehicle, the former chief minister gets down from his SUV and marches towards the restaurant.
He again expresses his helplessness in devoting more time to his own campaign. To explain them how busy he is, he says: “I returned to Bangalore only at 3.30 am from Shimoga after campaigning for Geetha Shivrajkumar.”
It is the same speech and a similar response from the crowds at Aralur and Hunegal villages. Addressing a huge gathering at Peresandra Cross, Kumaraswamy tries to strike a chord with the local people by highlighting that the arid Chikkaballapur constituency needs permanent irrigation facility. And he makes a veiled attack on the sitting MP and Congress candidate M Veerappa Moily as well as the previous BJP and the present Siddaramaiah governments for not making efforts to implement the irrigation scheme.
As Kumaraswamy is about to end his speech, a section of the crowd starts moving towards the service road where an SUV carrying the JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda arrives. The father-son duo head to Bagepalli in separate vehicles to attend a JD(S) rally. Even there, “Kumaranna” asserts: “The party workers themselves have to canvass for me. After the elections, I will come to each and every village. I will dedicate a month for these visits.”