Some local Congress leaders have exploited my secular credentials: Deve Gowda

Janata Dal (Secular) national president H.D. Deve Gowda.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Despite fears of COVID-19, octogenarian former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda has decided to stay and campaign for the byelection in Sira, a constituency with a strong Vokkaliga presence that the Janata Dal (Secular) earlier held. In a telephonic interview from Sira in Tumakuru district, the JD(S) patriarch spoke about his campaign and shared his anger against the Congress, once his party’s ally.

What are the chances of the JD(S) retaining the Sira seat?

This will be a litmus test for us. The party has a base here and we have to give it strength. We will not win with money power. I am personally approaching voters and it is up to them to take a decision based on the party’s work and that of the deceased legislator B. Satyanarayana. The byelection is different and the ruling party is going to exploit power.

What brought you to the electoral arena, considering your age and the COVID-19 pandemic?

People who grew in the JD(S) and migrated are now talking of the party “disappearing” after this election. That is why I have taken this election seriously. I am fighting despite my old age to protect the party. The party is certainly going to survive. I am not bothered what Congress leaders say. I will stay here and campaign till November 1.

Do you think it was a mistake for the JD(S) to have allied with the Congress in 2018 to form the coalition government?

Yes. I did not want H.D. Kumaraswamy to head the government and had instead suggested senior Congress leader M. Mallikarjun Kharge’s name. We were forced by the Congress high command to head the secular government. Local leaders were not consulted. The former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and the former Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar were responsible for bringing down the government. That is the blunder I have committed. I have learnt a lesson.

Your son and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy in a recent interview said that your ‘secular weakness’ has been exploited by the Congress. Do you agree?

Certainly. Some Congress local leaders have exploited my secular credentials throughout my political career. I have stood by secular politics and I did not compromise even when the NDA parties, including the BJP, offered to support me when I was stepping down as the Prime Minister. Even now, Congress leaders publicly state that there will be no JD(S) after this election. I am striving to revive the party that has been damaged for agreeing to form a secular coalition in Karnataka.

But you were elected to the Rajya Sabha recently with the help of the Congress.

Some local leaders have other plans. It was because of Mr. Kharge and K.C. Venugopal that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi decided to not field another candidate, paving the way for my entry to the Rajya Sabha. Problem is with local leaders.

Why is the Congress aggressively attacking the JD(S) now?

KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar attempted to destabilise the JD(S) in the past by persuading Mr. Siddaramaiah to go out of the party. The former Chief Minister S.M. Krishna and Mr. Shivakumar have attempted to destabilise the late N. Dharam Singh-led coalition government. Today, Congress leaders are doing the same thing to destabilise the party.

How do you intend to bring secular forces together from now on?

First, my age and health have to permit. I do not know what role I will play in the remaining time. This country should not suffer on account of fundamentalist forces. There should be protection to minorities, Dalits, and all other sections. This country belongs to all. Democracy is deep rooted and one-party rule cannot happen. I will make known by future plans after November 10.

Will the JD(S) have any role in the current political speculation over change of guard in the BJP government?

I have nothing to do with it. When B.S. Yeddyurappa took oath, we openly declared we are not going to destabilise his government. I do not want to offer any comment on the speculation.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 9:35:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/some-local-congress-leaders-have-exploited-my-secular-credentials-deve-gowda/article32933371.ece

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