Politics has changed, not me: Deve Gowda

Politics has changed, not me: Deve Gowda

JD (S) supremo Haradanahalli Doddegowda Deve Gowda sounds pragmatic when he says that no regional party is ready to sacrifice its vote base for the sake of Lok Sabha elections.

He wonders why a regional party will enter pre-poll alliance instead of consolidating its base in states where it has got good hold. In Karnataka, the JD (S) has so far not struck deal with even with the Left parties.

After spending weeks in Delhi holding talks with various regional parties, the former PM returned to Bangalore. He realised that the recent developments were not conducive to form a Third Front and has now confined himself to Bangalore. His days are spent holdings talks with his party men and giving interviews to the media.

In an interview to Deccan Herald, the 80-year old leader went on a nostalgic trip about his career. He called himself the most ‘unfortunate politician’. He also predicts that in the near future, Karnataka may not produce a prime ministerial candidate. At the same time, he is well aware that even he has no chances of again becoming prime minister even by fluke. He says his party would intensely campaign in a dozen constituencies while fielding candidates for all the 28 seats. Excerpts of his interview with Asha Krishnaswamy and Sandeep Moudgal of Deccan Herald:

DH: You had said that this would be the last Parliament elections you are going to face? In the past you had made such statements and backtracked.

DG: I am very firm when I say this is going to be my last LS elections. But I am going to be active in Karnataka politics till the 2019 assembly elections. But after the 2019 elections, I will slowly distance myself from politics.

DH: Does that mean you will contest the Assembly elections?

DG: No. I am not going to get into electoral politics but work towards my aim of bringing the JD (S) to power in the state. I will be active in state politics.

In the Lok Sabha, when I wanted to speak on certain crucial issues, I was allotted just three minutes! On top of it, I was asked to table my written speech so that it can be considered as read. This is how a former prime minister, who has 52 years of political experience, was treated. This humiliation happened on July 20, 2004. That happened to be my last speech in Parliament. Is there any meaning in continuing to be an MP?

Also, my age is a factor to decide not to contest polls. Hence this is going to be the last electoral battle.

DH: How has been your growth in the last five decades – from Haradanahalli to Delhi?

DG: Political scenario has changed. But I have not changed. My food habit has not changed. There is no change in my sense of dressing. As a person I have remained same. There is no change in my commitment. As an MLA, MP, Leader of the Opposition, CM and PM, I have always remained the same.

DH: What major changes you are noticing?

DG: The influence of money and caste has increased tremendously. For the first time, when I contested as a rebel Congressman, I had no money for filing the nomination papers. All I required was Rs 150. I wanted to mortgage 8 to 9 acres of land to a co-operative society to raise money. R Anantharaman, an officer of the society, advised me against mortgaging the ancestral property.

At one point, my wife’s gold ornaments had to be mortgaged for Rs 80 to meet the campaign expenditure. In addition, people had to spend on my behalf. I walked in 145 villages and eventually I emerged victorious.

But today, I am seeing unhealthy competition. Politics is not done in an ethical way. Caste and money play a major role. We are the reason for this situation. The atmosphere is so vitiated that one has to spend not less than Rs 20 crore to contest an assembly seat and Rs 50 cr for an LS seat. Even to face a corporation election, Rs 8 to 10 cr is required. I had to raise loans to hold the recent four public rallies. Workers will not stir unless money is paid. I wonder where we are heading to.

DH: You mean to say that the Gowda clan is running out money to keep floating in politics? It is difficult to fathom. Your family members are believed to be into various types of business and funding politicians.

DG: Many assumptions are being made about me and my family. But the reality is different. I had to raise loan to fund my daughter-in-law’s by-elections to the LS. I and my wife are living in my second daughter’s house. The only thing that is going for me is the fact that people believe in me. I have always kept my word, when repaying my loans.

DH: Do you have any friends in politics or do you miss any politician with whom you grew up?

DG: It is very difficult to name anyone from politics who I miss. There are very few close friends of mine who reside in Bangalore. But, in today’s era of dirty politics, very few want to even speak to me in the City. Many have betrayed me in politics. Hegde walked out of the meeting where Jyoti Basu had proposed my name for the prime minister post. I did not seek the post or was aiming at the post. It fell on my laps because nobody else was found suitable for the post.

DH: Except your MLA sons, there are no second line leaders in the party. Why have you not nurtured youngsters who could have been pillars of strength today?

DG: There were second line leaders. It included M P Prakash and others. But they left the party for their own reasons. How could second line leaders emerge?

DH: Your sons H D Revanna and H D Kumaraswamy are over protected by you.
Kumaraswamy has not been successful in building the party. But in the case of Revanna, he has not grown beyond Hassan. Comment.

DG: Revanna is a god fearing man, who offers prayers to various deities. I have not given him freedom, and also he is one who does not overrule his father’s words. But his time will come to play a bigger role. Kumaraswamy is a man of innovative ideas. He has concerns for the people. But he finds it difficult to implement his ideas.

DH: How many more from your family will enter politics? Anitha Kumaraswamy has not been successful. Still you are trying to field her from Chikballapur.

DG: Anitha is a nice person. A lot of injustice has been done to her. But over a period, she has learnt from her mistakes. Revanna’s son Prajwal wants to be a politician. I have advised against it. But he is very keen. So, I have told his mother Bhavani that she can aspire to be a politician. Either of them can make it to politics.

DH: Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was grown up with you in Janata Parivar. How is your assessment of his governance?

DG: Siddaramaiah is only into further splitting of backward classes. He wants to create an atmosphere where only divisive forces work. But this is surely going to affect him adversely. Beyond this, I have no comments to make.

DH: Do you have to campaign for yourself in Hassan to retain the LS seat? Do you have rivals?

DG: I will have to campaign because I am facing an election. In an election, opponents will always be there.

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