Karnataka polls: HD Deve Gowda gets last laugh on Congress two decades after ignominious exit as PM

On the fateful night of 11 April, 1997, Haradanahalli Doddegowda Deve Gowda knew in matter of next few minutes he would suffer the ignominy of losing the vote of confidence on floor of Parliament and post of prime minister. The Congress pulled its support and was to vote against him.

File image of JD(S) leader HR Deve Gowda. AFP

File image of JD(S) leader HR Deve Gowda. AFP

But before that could happen he finished his concluding speech on the motion by saying “…and if it is my destiny to rise again from the dust, then I shall do so — for no one, not even the president of the Congress party can deny a man his due”.

Two decades later, an 85-year-old Deve Gowda now has all the reasons to cheer the remarks he made. For the past two days, Gowda has been sitting at home with Congress leaders of all hues, from Sonia Gandhi to mid-level state leaders pampering him with an irresistible offer: Accept Congress’ support to make his son HD Kumaraswamy chief minister of Karnataka.

Twenty-one years ago, the then Congress president Sitaram Kesri humiliated Gowda and ensured his unceremonious exit from Prime Minister’s Office. It was a post Gowda held less than 10 months.

Today, not just Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, but the entire Congress party is at his feet, and at his son’s feet to keep BJP out. His words have proved to be prophetic for him and Congress. After all, the Congress, and more so, its president Rahul campaigned bitterly against Gowda and his party.

While the JD(S) finished third, and won fewer seats than it did in 2013, the Congress performed even worse: It ended up with 40 percent fewer seats than it did in 2013. But as fate would have it, Sonia and Rahul have turned into Gowda and his son's biggest admirers and proved right Gowda’s prophesy “and if it is my destiny to rise again from the dust...”

Gowda obviously does not care for the age old saying “those who do not learn from his history are doomed to repeat it.” He has his own earthy wisdom: He has tasted success and suffered reverses but it must be hugely gratifying for him to see Congress pulling all its strength and resources to make his son lead a hopeless minority government.

Though Gowda would obviously like to see his son as chief minister — for howsoever brief a period — Kumaraswamy did not get Governor Vajubhai Vala’s invite to form the government but the fact remains that Gowda senior has now accomplished what he once aspired.

In mid-1997, Gowda's was part of the Janata Dal, whose standing as per the parliamentary elections was a mere three seats. Gowda was nowhere in the reckoning. Nor did his voice matter in political strategy or backroom maneuvering at national level but as luck would have it, the so-called secularists joined hands with outside support of the Congress to prevent BJP from taking power. Thus, Gowda was sworn in as the 11th Prime Minister of India on 1 June, 1996.

In 1996 parliamentary elections, BJP with 161 seats, made phenomenal gains. It became the single largest party at the Centre for the first time as the Congress touched its lowest ever mark (at the time) and won only 140 seats. The Janata Dal also suffered substantial losses and could secure only 46 seats.

The situation after results were declared yesterday was similar to what happened in 2004. The contrasting situations of 2004 and May 2018 have one big difference: Back then, the Congress with 65 seats (losing power and trailling BJP) made a post-poll alliance with JD(S), which had 58 seats, but kept the chief minister’s post and offered the deputy chief minister’s post to Siddaramaiah.

It was the JD(S), which was part of Congress-led coalition for about a year and a half, which pulled support to align with the BJP and saw Kumaraswamy rise to post of chief minister. In four years, from 2004 to 2008, JD(S) was part of two coalitions, with Congress and BJP breaking away from both.

Today, Siddaramaiah is part of Congress and the party with 78 seats is offering chief minister’s post to JD(S) which has only 37 seats. This move reflects on Congress’ leadership, especially on Rahul. Looks like the so-called Congress “high command” is in need of a new nomenclature. Gowda, meanwhile, is having the last laugh: “For no one, not even the president of the Congress party can deny a man his due”.


Updated Date: May 16, 2018 22:58 PM

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