Interview: H.D. Deve Gowda

‘BJP wants to finish off regional parties’

Print edition : April 26, 2019

H.D. Deve Gowda. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K

Interview with H.D. Deve Gowda, former Prime Minister and JD(S) chief.

H.D. Deve Gowda has climbed every political ladder a politician can aspire for. He was Chief Minister of Karnataka before becoming Prime Minister for a brief period, between June 1996 and April 1997. In his six-decade-long career he has outsmarted the most Machiavellian of politicians. Unmindful of criticism, he has stacked his regional outfit, the Janata Dal (Secular), with his sons, daughters-in-law and even grandsons. During every interaction with this correspondent, he has spoken about the national parties’ attempts to destroy the JD(S). Deve Gowda, who turns 86 in May, hopes to play a major role at the Centre after the Lok Sabha election.

In a 30-minute interview with Frontline, the patriarch exuded confidence about the stability of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka formed in May 2018 with his son, H.D. Kumaraswamy, as Chief Minister. Even as he was speaking, Income Tax Department officials were conducting searches on the premises of 13 contractors and five Public Works Department engineers allegedly associated with his son and Public Works Minister H.D. Revanna and Minor Irrigation Minister C.S. Puttaraju, at 21 locations across Mysuru, Mandya, Hassan, Chikkamagalur and Shivamogga districts. Excerpts:

Will the distrust among Congress and JD(S) cadres affect the chances of the coalition’s candidates?

Why are you worried about this, I say? The Congress-JD(S) coalition will do well in all the 28 seats. Already the leaders of the two parties have started campaigning together. I will also be campaigning along with [former Congress Chief Minister] Siddaramaiah. I will go wherever the Congress is contesting and wants me to campaign. It is the responsibility of the coalition to overcome the challenges and put up a fight against the BJP. It is only the shameless electronic media that is continuing to highlight and create differences between the coalition partners.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has usurped the nationalism debate, even claiming that only the BJP can take care of the country. He has even taken credit for India acquiring the ability to destroy an orbiting satellite.

Cross-border strikes have been conducted even in the past. Indian scientists have achieved a lot even in the past. But Modi is trying to show that the achievements of the armed forces and our scientists are happening only during his time in office. He has demoralised constitutional bodies.

See what is happening in the Election Commission of India. They have put on hold the Karnataka government’s loan waiver scheme, saying that the money transferred [to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts] may be used to sway voters. But the E.C. took no action against Modi’s speech announcing the success of our scientists. Is the E.C. impartial? Modi is misusing Central agencies.

Tax raids have been conducted on a number of contractors close to senior JD(S) leaders.

These are politically motivated raids. This is the act of B.R. Balakrishna [Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax and Director General (Investigations), Karnataka and Goa]. He is to retire in June and is acting as per the directions of Modi and [BJP president] Amit Shah. Why should Balakrishna hold two posts? Are there no other officers who are honest? The only targets of these raids are the two constituencies [Hassan and Mandya] where my grandchildren Prajwal Revanna and Nikhil Kumaraswamy are contesting. I am not scared. This is being done to put pressure on Kumaraswamy so that he will move closer to the BJP.

Are you saying that the BJP is trying to woo Kumaraswamy?

Yes. Right from the BBMP [Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike] mayoral elections to the formation of the coalition government, the BJP has tried to persuade him. But he has not yielded. The first aim of the BJP is to destroy the JD(S). Amit Shah is acting shamelessly. The BJP wants to finish off regional parties. But I am not scared. That is why they are creating problems.

You have been highly critical of B.R. Balakrishna.

He is an agent of Modi and Amit Shah. This man gave a clean chit to B.S. Yeddyurappa [BJP strongman and former Chief Minister] in the ‘Diarygate scandal’ [where details of payments allegedly made by Yeddyurappa to senior BJP functionaries among others were noted in a diary that was found during a raid on a Congress leader’s house]. Who is Balakrishna to say that the signatures in the diary are forged? There is a different organisation to authenticate this. He is looking for an extension of service and following the orders of Modi and Amit Shah. But (laughs) I know all these methods of governments using Central authorities to fix political opponents. Modi is demolishing all constitutional bodies. After the Godhra incident [preceding the Gujarat pogrom in 2002] there was a lot of communication between me and A.B. Vajpayee. I do not want to divulge all this now.

What is your role in these elections?

My responsibility is to see that the BJP’s numbers are reduced. Dethrone Modi. The BJP has even misused the judiciary.

Your grandson Nikhil is locked in a tough battle in Mandya with the independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh.

A few people, who were earlier in the JD(S) but are now in the Congress, are manipulating her with the aim of wiping out Nikhil. They are using all methods to destroy the JD(S). But I will fight them.

There was a lot of confusion over the choice of your constituency. You were keen on contesting from north Karnataka or Mysuru. The Congress wanted you to contest from Bengaluru North. You choose Tumakuru, and a Congress rebel has filed his nomination there.

Yes, initially there were hiccups. Congress president Rahul Gandhi decided the seats. In Tumakuru, the Congress had to take care of the rebel candidate. Congress workers will work for me in Tumakuru. I am confident that the alliance will do well in Karnataka. Modi’s speeches won’t impress voters.

Danish Ali, former JD(S) general secretary and the man who many consider to be one of the architects of the Congress-JD(S) coalition, has joined the Bahujan Samaj Party. Mayawati refused to let Ali contest under the JD(S) symbol. Is it a loss to the JD(S)?

I don’t want to get involved in this. Every regional party has its own problems.

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