Why kingmaker? We want to emerge kings: H.D. Deve Gowda

The former PM denied that his party had any tacit understanding with the BJP or Congress, arguing that a regional party would prioritise Karnataka’s interests, and that the JD(S) could be trusted to keep its poll promises

Updated - May 01, 2023 02:58 am IST

Published - April 30, 2023 05:55 pm IST

Despite his age and health issues, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda is still in the electoral arena, hitting the campaign trail for the Janata Dal (Secular), which he founded in 1999. Illustration: J.A. Premkumar

Despite his age and health issues, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda is still in the electoral arena, hitting the campaign trail for the Janata Dal (Secular), which he founded in 1999. Illustration: J.A. Premkumar

The nonagenarian former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda is a veteran of several epic political battles over the course of his six decades in electoral politics. Despite his age and health issues, he is still in the electoral arena, hitting the campaign trail for the Janata Dal (Secular), which he founded in 1999. Known for his sharp analysis of the political climate in the State, Mr. Gowda is actively involved in troubleshooting for the party, which is now led by his son and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. He spoke to The Hindu on the upcoming Karnataka Assembly election and the possible scenarios ahead of the 2024 Parliamentary election.

Excerpts from the interview:

Are there hopes of the JD(S) emerging as a kingmaker in this election again?

Why kingmaker? We want to emerge kings. There will not be a fractured mandate and there is no point in speaking about alliances. My honest assessment is that we will come to power with a working majority.

What is your response to the allegations that the JD(S) has a political understanding with both the BJP and the Congress?

There is no question of a tacit understanding with either BJP or Congress. We will go on our own with our programmes to all constituencies and speak about the programmes.

How do you rate the current BJP government and what will the JD(S) pitch be for the Assembly election?

This is the worst government. There is anti-incumbency and there are corruption charges. H.D. Kumaraswamy has already implemented the ₹25,000 loan waiver scheme and successfully rehabilitated those who lost homes in Kodagu. Through Pancharatna yatra, Mr. Kumaraswamy has announced new programmes. Confidence has been created in the minds of the people that he will stand by his promises and implement them. Trust is more important than the promise and people trust him. On the other hand, what has BJP or Congress done that is trustworthy? 

Can the JD(S) poll promises be implemented?

Mr. Kumaraswamy has shown what is possible already and has shown maturity in implementing promises. The loan waiver was implemented despite the Congress insisting on continuing the so-called Bhagya schemes started by former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and also the earlier loan waiver.

What is your take on the reservation for Muslims and on the Lingayat issue?

Reservation will be an election issue and voting will be on those lines. We have said that the Muslim reservation of 4% in the [Other Backward Class] OBC quota will be restored. Muslims have full confidence in me. I do not want to speak or react on the Lingayat issue till the Parliamentary elections are over. 

Do you think Karnataka election results will set a trend for an anti-BJP alliance for the 2024 general election?

Karnataka has got only 28 Parliamentary seats and we should not think this is the whole of the issue. We can only form a small opinion on the trend after the results. There are efforts towards an alliance. Due to my health, I am not doing anything. But if others do, I will cooperate. I have no reservations about an anti-BJP alliance.

Is a regional party important for Karnataka?

Certainly. Both national parties have ditched Karnataka, and the State is the worst sufferer. In the Cauvery issue, not a rupee was given by the Union Government... Whether it is Vajpayee or Modi or Manmohan Singh. When I raised the Cauvery issue in the Lok Sabha, none from Karnataka in the other parties raised their voice. At that point, the BJP was hoping to tie up with AIADMK. That is why they [Tamil Nadu] got all projects cleared and received Central assistance. The national parties are unable to raise their head in Tamil Nadu. When I was the Prime Minister, I made decisions on merit and not on political consideration.

Are the election narratives increasingly being reduced to personal attacks?

Election campaigns these days have lost their way. Personal attacks and unnecessary statements do not benefit anyone, nor do they serve any political purpose. 

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