Deve Gowda swears by secularism

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Muralidhara Khajane and Laiqh A. Khan

"My son was forced to form an alternative Government with BJP to save party"

  • I introduced four per cent quota for minorities
  • UPA Government apathetic to Sachchar Committee findings

    MYSORE: The former Prime Minister and JD (S) supremo, H.D. Deve Gowda said here on Saturday that his son Kumaraswamy was forced to form an alternative Government with the BJP "without his consent" to save the party.

    "The local Congress leaders would have split the JD (S) had my son not acted quickly to forge an alliance with the BJP," Mr. Gowda told The Hindu in an exclusive interview. "I have still not consented to the alliance and the action of JD (S) MLAs led by my son is still before the party's disciplinary committee."

    Brushing aside the scepticism over his commitment to the secular ideology, he claimed here that he was the architect of reservation for Muslims.

    Mr. Gowda said he introduced four per cent political and educational reservation for minorities in Karnataka "for the first time in India" when he was Chief Minister in 1995.

    While States such as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh failed to provide reservation to the minorities, either on technical or political grounds, Karnataka successfully implemented the quota rule for Muslims.

    Visibly agitated over the charges against him for joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka, Mr. Gowda blamed the Congress for his political predicament. He charged the party with consistently trying to "finish him politically."

    Mr. Gowda, aggrieved over the manner in which the Congress pulled the rug from under the feet of his erstwhile United Front Government, held the local Congress leaders responsible for the collapse of the Dharam Singh-led coalition Government. "I am being called a murderer of secular democracy by national leaders like the former Prime Minister, V.P. Singh. But, what is the contribution of the Congress party to the well-being of minorities," Mr. Gowda asked.

    He accused the Manmohan Singh Government of being apathetic to the recommendations of the Sachchar Committee, constituted to study the socio-economic conditions of the minorities.

    Mr. Gowda focused on the "inaction" of successive Congress Governments in Karnataka in stemming the communal tide.

    The S.M. Krishna regime sponsored the Datta Jayanthi at the disputed cave shrine of Bababudangiri in Chikmagalur district in gross violation of court direction. "There is photographic evidence of Congress Ministers participating in the rituals," Mr. Gowda said.

    When the JD (S) became part of the Congress-led coalition in Karnataka subsequently, the rituals were not allowed. "It was because of our firm stand on the issue, Datta Jayanthi celebrations have been prevented since 2004," he said.

    He recalled the reported stripping of two Muslim cattle traders in Udipi when Mr. Dharam Singh was Chief Minister. When the Government did not take steps, he visited the area to console the affected people. "During my visit to the region, the Congress kicked up a fresh controversy by accusing me of calling the Chief Minister in singular," he recalled.

    Referring to the recent communal riots in Mangalore, he said the Congress Government headed by Veerappa Moily took 17 days to bring the communal violence in Bhatkal under control whereas the present Kumaraswamy Government brought back peace to Mangalore in two days.

    Training his guns on the Congress for withdrawing support to the United Front Government, Mr. Gowda said his 10-month rule at the Centre was a "success story." "Yet, the Congress withdrew its support to the Government headed by me."

    He listed food subsidy, a package for slum development, an exclusive financial package of Rs. 6,100 crore for the seven sister States of the north-east, the waiver of interest on loans borrowed by traders in Kashmir, the Farakka pact with Bangladesh to share the Ganga waters, the talks with Naga extremists in Switzerland, the Mahakali hydel project with Nepal, among his "achievements."

    Mr. Gowda said he resisted the proposal to carry out Pokhran II nuclear tests. "Though the file was before me, I refused to give it the green signal. I was not worried about U.S. sanctions. I was more concerned about good relations with neighbouring countries."

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