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APART from his notorious nodding away during public meetings H D Deve Gowda’s brief tenure as India’s Prime Minister in 1996-97 is...

Written by Johnson T A |
October 23, 2005

APART from his notorious nodding away during public meetings H D Deve Gowda’s brief tenure as India’s Prime Minister in 1996-97 is commonly remembered in Karnataka for his two famous remarks—both when the PM’s seat was being pulled from under his huge frame.

The first ‘‘an old man in a hurry’’ to describe the late Congress leader Sitaram Kesri and the second ‘‘I will rise from the ashes again’’.

Today people in Karnataka see the 73-year-old Deve Gowda himself as the old man in a hurry—attacking all he perceives as enemies, not caring for reputations, friends or enemies; paranoid, embattled, embittered and all the while plotting his flight from the ashes.

After his 1996 honeymoon in Delhi, Gowda, who had given up the Karnataka chief minister’s post to be PM, saw himself in the political doldrums in Bangalore when his party ended up as goners in the 1999 Karnataka Assembly elections.

When the 2004 elections came no one gave Gowda and his constantly splitting, reuniting Janata Dal a chance in the polls. Frustrated by the ill-fortuned Congress chief minister S M Krishna’s urban biased tenure, voters in 58 rural constituencies—mostly from the Gowda heartland in south Karnataka—plumped for the self-proclaimed ‘son of the soil, ‘humble farmer’ and his pro-farmer, pro-poor platform.

That political kiss of life from rural Karnataka resurrected Deve Gowda’s political life. In the virtual three-way tie between his party, the Congress and the BJP, Gowda smelt his chance for power. He joined hands with Sonia Gandhi and the Congress to ‘‘keep out the anti-secular forces’’.

Gowda conceded the chief minister’s post to the Congress to enable his party to take up a vantage position in government—one where his party wields power the way it wants, while mistakes get fobbed off on the Congress; a government where Gowda is all-in-one—chief minister, chief opposition leader, father figure and rabble-rouser. A government that will allow the JDS to plan for bigger gains in the next polls.

After successfully instituting Dharam Singh as CM, his own sons H D Kumaraswamy and H D Revanna in positions of power in the party and ministry, and engineering the exit of the previous chief minister S M Krishna from state politics, Gowda set about one of the main items on his political agendas—decimating fellow Vokkaliga-leader, arch-rival S M Krishna and his supporters.

NEVER known to be a smooth operator, Gowda in his inimitable abrasive style—which has created numerous enemies in his over five-decade-old political life, set about attacking anything he saw as a legacy of the previous regime.

Narayana Murthy and the IT sector are the latest to taste Deve Gowda’s vengeance. The reason: the former prime minister believes S M Krishna is firing from the shoulder of Infosys and its chief.

‘‘Deve Gowda was actually very satisfied following a meeting with Murthy and Dharam Singh on October 17. He told Murthy his government would support the IT sector. Then S M Krishna had a press conference and Gowda decided to react,’’ says a source close to Gowda.

‘‘Gowda is an ageing man. He was the former prime minister and he has a lot of pride in this. It hurts him that every time the IT sector has a grouse it rushes to Mumbai or Delhi and not to him. People in the IT industry say he is opposed to IT, but he isn’t,’’ says an IT industry source who is close to the Gowda camp.

Gowda eats, sleeps and breathes politics. His close confidantes say his day begins around 4 am and extends well past midnight.

Gowda has frequently said he is concerned only about the farmer. So far, he has tuned the coalition government’s policies to suit this as well.

While, there is the constant question mark on when Gowda will pull the rug on the Congress and Dharam Singh, the former prime minister himself has constantly vouched support for the coalition. Maybe Gowda still remembers the ‘old man in a hurry’’.

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