Karnataka polls: Siddaramaiah will pay the price for dividing Lingayats, says HD Deve Gowda

Though the battle in Karnataka is between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), former prime minister and Janata Dal (Secular) supremo HD Deve Gowda has lately been dominating the news. He’s been accused of having cut a deal to support the BJP in the event of a hung Assembly. Recent praise for him from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and reports from the ground suggest something is afoot. Gowda denies any such understanding and in an interview with Y Maheswara Reddy of 101Reporters for Firstpost explains why he thinks the JD(S) will come to power.

You and your son (HD Kumaraswamy) have been saying there will be no tie-up with the BJP. Prime Minister Modi has criticised Congress leaders for making defamatory statements against you saying he would welcome you to his residence. What is going on?

Prime Minister Modi made such statements after gathering information on what is going on in Karnataka and how immature Congress president Rahul Gandhi is to speak against me. I am aware of Gandhi’s speech asking me to come clean (on the rumoured BJP tie-up). People are watching Rahul Gandhi. They know Deve Gowda’s contribution to Karnataka.

Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda. Image courtesy Y Maheswara Reddy

Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda. Image courtesy Y Maheswara Reddy

We need not give too much credence to Modi’s statement. Modi is a smart person. He is capable of issuing different statements or delivering different speeches in different states in the country. Modi might have made such statement out of sympathy or respect towards me.

You made a statement that your son will be disowned by you and family members if he supports the BJP. What do you say to Siddaramaiah’s allegation of Kumaraswamy’s understanding with Amit Shah?

There is no truth in Siddaramaiah’s allegation. My son Kumaraswamy did not travel on the same flight as BJP national president Amit Shah. Kumaraswamy has already filed a complaint with the Election Commission against those who made such baseless allegations. Siddaramaiah has been making baseless allegations against the JD(S) leaders. He is describing the JD(S) as the BJP’s ‘B’ team. It is Siddaramaiah who sought BJP’s help to become the chief minister when he was with the JD(S). I know it. He thinks that I am not aware of it.

In 2014, you said you would quit the Lok Sabha if Modi becomes prime minister, but you still remain the MP from Hassan. Why?

I met Modi three days after he became prime minister. I told him about my decision to quit. He advised me not to take seriously the statements and speeches made during the election campaign. So, I decided to continue as an MP. During the Lok Sabha elections, Modi advised me to come to Gujarat and promised to look after me well. Why should I go to Gujarat when I have four sons and two daughters?

After that, I met him on a few occasions to discuss farmers issues. I am not able to understand his silence on serious issues such as Mahadayi and farmers’ suicides in Karnataka.

Surveys indicate that the Congress will emerge as the largest party in the House but may not secure a majority. In that scenario, will JD(S) join hands with the BJP?

I have made it clear that there is no need for us to have a tie-up or an understanding with any political party in Karnataka. I know that we are competing against two national parties, but I am sure of JD(S) coming to power.

On what basis do you say that?

We have a tie-up with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) that has contested elections in the state. The JD(S) candidates got defeated in around 50 Assembly seats by a margin of 1,000 to 1,500 votes. I believe the tie-up with the BSP will help the JD(S) to get additional votes in those constituencies. Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu have appealed to Telugu-speaking people to vote for JD(S) candidates. The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) leader is also ready to campaign in support of JD(S) candidates. So, with support from all these political parties, I have no doubt that JD(S) candidates will romp home in the elections.

What is your opinion on Siddaramaiah contesting from two constituencies?

It will not be easy for Siddaramaiah to win from both the constituencies. A variety of forces are working against him. He will pay the price for dividing the Lingayat community. He is also trying to split Muslim votes, but it will be very tough for him. Muslims know what I have done for them. It is not so easy for Siddaramaiah to take away Muslims from the JD(S). People are aware of Siddaramaiah’s contribution in weakening the Karnataka Lokayukta by establishing the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). Siddaramaiah is worse, though smarter, than BJP state president BS Yeddyurappa.

Why did you promote your son Kumaraswamy as state JD(S) president and no one else?

You have mistaken me and people who have such a notion are also mistaking me. What do you want me to do when no one is ready to take up that responsibility? I visited former Congress minister A Krishnappa at midnight to convince him to become JD(S) state president. After his untimely death, I appealed his daughter Poornima Srinivas to take up the responsibility. I assured her my full support. The post was vacant for more than six months. I was compelled to ask my son Kumaraswamy to take up the responsibility.

There was competition among your family members to contest the elections. Isn’t this dynastic politics?

Yes, some of our family members wanted to contest the elections but they withdrew their claims after Kumaraswamy issued a statement stating that only he and his brother Revanna will contest. Two brothers contesting in the Assembly elections is not dynastic politics. Congress and BJP leaders would have accused the JD(S) of encouraging dynasty politics had Prajwal Revanna been given the ticket to contest.

Attempts are being made to revive the third front. Do you think it is viable?

Yes, attempts are being made to revive the third front to counter the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. There are two groups of political parties on the formation of the third front. While the one is in favour of the third front without the Congress, the other one wants the Congress to be part of the third front.

I am not interested in national politics. I became the prime minister by chance and my entry into politics itself is also accidental. I was a small-time contractor before entering politics.

The author is a Bangalore-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.


Updated Date: May 03, 2018 16:54 PM

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