Interview: H.D. Deve Gowda

‘Will fight on our own’

Print edition : May 25, 2018

H.D. Deve Gowda Photo: K.MURALI_KUMAR

Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda has seen many a political battle since his first election in 1962 when he contested from the Holenarasipur (Hassan district) constituency as an independent. He has seen 12 Assembly elections, but the 2018 election presents a challenge like never before. Not only is Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, his one-time protege and now arch rival, losing no opportunity to take vicious swipes at him and his regional outfit, the Janata Dal (Secular), there is turmoil within the patriarch’s family as other members seek to play larger political roles. His son, State party president H.D. Kumaraswamy, is today probably more powerful than the elder Gowda within the JD(S). While his second son, H.D. Revanna, who is fighting the Holenarasipur constituency, has not been publicly vocal about other family members’ demands, his wife, Bhavani Revanna, and son Prajwal Revanna have been making no bones about their political ambitions. Frontline caught up with the 85-year-old leader in Hassan. Excerpts from the interview:

Will you and your party be happy with 30 to 35 seats? In the event of a hung Assembly, this will make you the kingmaker.

The Janata Dal has shakti…. We are fighting in all the seats. We will come to power on our own. I have suffered enough at the hands of both the national parties. The Congress is trying to destroy regional parties, their formula is “use and destroy”. So too with the BJP. See what it has done with the Shiv Sena.

But despite your misgivings, Kumaraswamy joined hands with the “communal BJP” in 2006. In the run up to these elections the Congress has termed your party “Janata Dal Sangh Parivar” and the “B team of the BJP”.

That was a blunder. At that point, the JD(S) was in a bad shape and was about to disintegrate, thanks to the efforts of the Congress. That is why he took the support of the BJP and formed the government. I have told Kumaraswamy not to go with either the Congress or the BJP. He is still paying the price for having joined hands with the BJP. It cannot happen again. I have never gone after power. Even when I became Prime Minister, it was only because V.P. Singh refused and Jyoti Basu and others insisted. Jyoti Basu said, “Mr Gowda, if you refuse you will be guilty of allowing the communal forces to come to power.”

Even later, in 1996, had I been power hungry and compromised with Sitaram Kesri of the Congress, I would have served the country as Prime Minister for some more time.

Your party getting a majority is too far-fetched. You have also lost a few key legislators, like Cheluvarayaswamy and Zameer Ahmed Khan, who have jumped ship and gone to the Congress.

I don’t want to take their names at all. But let me tell you, the feeling among the voters in Karnataka is that the BJP [in 2008] and the Congress [in 2013] have been given a chance, now let us try Kumaraswamy.

On the possibility of a third front or a federal front, the Chief Ministers of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, N. Chandrababu Naidu and K. Chandrashekhar Rao respectively, have been lending you support.

They have sympathy for me. They have seen me suffer for the past 20 years. For the sake of the Karnataka Assembly elections, they are helping me by wooing voters in the areas close to their State borders. I was the first national leader to attend a pro-Telangana rally. KCR has not forgotten that. I have good relations with both of them.

You shared a cordial relationship with Sonia Gandhi. Do you share the same relationship with her son Rahul Gandhi?

Sonia Gandhi’s decision to pull Siddaramaiah to the Congress was meant to weaken my party. I have never gotten over that decision. It hurt me. In 2008, she pulled [M.P.] Prakash to the Congress, again to weaken my party. The Congress… [shrugs] Even recently, in the Rajya Sabha elections, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi took a U-turn and defeated a minority candidate of the JD(S).

Siddaramaiah has been attacking you during campaigning.

He is a casteist leader heading the most corrupt government I have seen.

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