Deve Gowda sweats it out for his grandson in Hassan

Updated - April 20, 2024 12:08 am IST

Published - April 16, 2024 07:29 pm IST - Anekere/Udayapura (Hassan)

The former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda at an election campaign meeting at Udayapura in Channarayapatna taluk.

The former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda at an election campaign meeting at Udayapura in Channarayapatna taluk. | Photo Credit: Prakash Hassan

There is a flurry of activity as the former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda reaches the venue of the campaign meeting at Anekere village. Three of his assistants rush to help him get down from the vehicle. Two of them support him at his shoulders so that he avoids putting his full body weight on his weak knees, while another follows, ready to help him with anything he might need any moment.

This is the common scene at the election meetings that the 91-year-old has been attending in the Hassan Lok Sabha constituency. Mr. Gowda is the only former Prime Minister who has been actively campaigning in the current elections and is possibly the oldest “star campaigner”.

Back-to-back shows

Unmindful of his age and health issues, he has been travelling, braving the scorching sun, visiting villages in the Hassan Lok Sabha constituency, his home turf, and campaigning for his grandson Prajwal Revanna, 34. He has been addressing back-to-back election campaign meetings and holding roadshows.

Speaking at a gathering of about 200 people at Anekere, he starts with a clarification to the audience about why he has to remain seated to address them. “I am 91 years old and both my knees are not in good condition,” says the former Prime Minister. He recalls his long association with the village. When he first visited the village, he was 28 years old, he says. Then the villagers had demanded a bridge. “Then I was an Independent MLA. The Congress had denied me a ticket, forcing me to contest as an Independent. However, I could get the bridge done with the help of then Public Works Minister Veerendra Patil,” he recalls.

Addressing another gathering at Udayapura, also in Channarayapatna taluk, he says he is in the last phase of his life. He could live for another seven or eight years, according to his jataka, he claims. “However, I continue to fight against injustice done to people of Karnataka on the Cauvery issue,” he says, then wandering into a description of various health problems he faces, including kidney issues.

Tirade against Congress

He shifts gears to launch a tirade against the Congress. “The Congress has been losing strength because of its misdeeds. Now, it has its base only in three States — Karnataka, Telangana, and Himachal Pradesh. Whereas the BJP holds power in 18 States,” he says, then meandering into the threat from China. He ends his speech by commenting on the Congress ruling in the State. “They are taking people’s money to fund elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan,” he alleges.

Mr. Gowda, who has been in active politics for sixty years, has a bond with local people. Quite surprisingly, he recalls the names of people who supported him during his first election and also identifies some of them sitting amid the public.

Mr. Deve Gowda has represented the Hassan Lok Sabha seat five times. He suffered a defeat once against his rival, G. Puttaswamy Gowda of the Congress, in the 1999 election. Now, the contest is between the grandsons of the two rivals of the past. Mr. Revanna is facing a tough fight from Shreyas M. Patel of the Congress, who is the grandson of the late Puttaswamy Gowda.

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