H.D. Deve Gowda was catapulted from Karnataka politics to the national arena after a fractured mandate in the 1996 general elections. He came as a surprise choice to head the 13-party United Front government, supported by the Congress.
A relatively unknown political face outside Karnataka back then, Mr. Gowda became the 13th Prime Minister on June 1, 1996, after the fall of the 13-day first NDA government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee. Tuesday marks the 25th anniversary of the swearing in of Mr. Gowda as the Prime Minister. He remained in power for 10 months and 22 days.
Excerpts from the interview with The Hindu .
You headed a coalition of 13 parties. Do you see the return of a similar coalition government now?
There are strong leaders with individual strengths such as Mamata Bannerjee, M.K. Stalin, Naveen Patnaik and Arvind Kejriwal. The BJP did whatever it could do in West Bengal, but Ms. Mamata proved to be among the strongest leaders. I do not know what political compulsions will bring them together.
We cannot predict what will happen. Who is there with the BJP now? Shiv Sena and Akali Dal have also left them. Faith in the Congress on forming coalitions with its support has eroded.
How do you see the current political climate?
We hear BJP is reviewing why they suffered in the elections in five States. The adamant attitude not to repeal three farm lawshas eroded their popularity in Northern states.
The by-election results for parliamentary seats are an indicator. If the situation is reviewed State-wise, BJP is in difficulty unless it takes some radical steps. I assume that they have experience to rectify whatever damage has happened.
Image builders say Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the strongest leader in the world. On the other hand, several Congress leaders are not showing the spirit to fight.
What do you think were high points of your tenure?
I was the first Prime Minister to visit Jammu and Kashmir in nine years and elections were initiated during my tenure. India signed treaties on border issues with China, talks with Pakistan were under way to bring peace and the water dispute with Bangladesh was addressed. Problems affecting the Narmada project were cleared and several projects in the North East were cleared. Projects like Delhi Metro, Koodankulam nuclear plant, telecom policy and civil aviation policy were launched to name a few.
Do you still feel bad that your tenure was too short?
I do not have any regrets. When I assumed power, 2,800 files were pending on my table. I had cleared all files by the time I exited. There have been no allegations against me. My government showed development is possible in a coalition. International and inter-State issues were addressed. As the son of an ordinary farmer and without knowledge of Hindi, I managed.