Deve Gowda’s hopes of playing national role fade

May 10th, 2009 - 12:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore, May 10 (IANS) Former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda turns 77 two days after the election results will be known on May 16, but it is highly unlikely he would want to celebrate, as his dreams of playing a major role in a non-Congress, non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formation are rapidly fading.
His party, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), is contesting 21 of Karnataka’s 28 Lok Sabha seats. The party is sure of winning two: Deve Gowda’s from his Hassan home district and of his son and former state chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, who is contesting from the Bangalore Rural constituency.

There is a huge question mark on the JD-S winning any other seat.

Including Deve Gowda, the JD-S had just three members in the outgoing Lok Sabha, two from Karnataka and one from Kerala. Against this, the BJP had 18 and the Congress eight.

Ahead of the polls, the other member from Karnataka, M. Shivanna, defected to the Congress and Gowda’s Left allies scuttled the re-nomination of the lone JD-S member from Kerala, M.P. Veerendra Kumar.

Though the BJP claims it will win between 22 and 24 seats this time, party leaders unofficially concede the tally might go down by two to three seats.

The Congress and the JD-S are expected to share these seats.

However, Gowda may find his tally of three or four seats inadequate to make him a force at the national level even in the case of a fractured verdict.

Though the May 18, 1933-born Haradanahalli Dodde Deve Gowda has been active in attempting to stitch together a Third Front along with the Left and regional parties like the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the AIADMK, the Congress appears to have completely ignored him as it woos Left, Right and Centre parties for a new alliance to retain power in New Delhi.

Young Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has unambiguously indicated that his party is ready to do business with other major third force players like the Telegu Desam and the AIADMK, and has even praised the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar - but has not uttered a word about Deve Gowda or the JD-S.

Gowda has been forced to be a mute spectator to the upheaval that Rahul Gandhi’s overtures are causing within the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

But his options are virtually non-existent.

He is heavily dependent on the Left parties, particularly the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), for continued accommodation in the third force as his party is unlikely to make significant gains in the elections, unlike the TDP, the AIADMK and a few others who are active in efforts to cobble together a non-Congress and non-BJP front.

It was for this reason that Deve Gowda did not take on the CPI-M when it opposed Veerendra Kumar’s re-nomination as he certainly cannot afford to rub the Marxists the wrong way.

His finest moment was in 1996. With only 46 Lok Sahba members of the then united Janata Dal, 18 of them from Karnataka, Deve Gowda become prime minister of India. He quit after the Congress withdrew support to the United Front coalition he led.

It has been a downhill journey since then.

The JD-S recovered some ground in the 2004 Karnataka assembly polls, winning 58 seats in the 225-member house and forming a coalition government with the Congress, which bagged 68 seats. The BJP won 79 seats.

Deve Gowda’s son Kumaraswamy became chief minister but differences soon arose. Along with 40 JD-S legislators, Kumaraswamy walked out of the coalition to form a government with the BJP on the understanding that he would step down as chief minister after 20 months.

Deve Gowda, however, forestalled this, leading to the collapse of the government and assembly polls being called in 2008, a year ahead of schedule.

That, perhaps, was Deve Gowda’s last hurrah.

The voters saw through the machinations and the elections saw the JD-S winning a mere 28 seats, with the BJP, which had won 110 seats, coming to power for the first time in Karnataka with the help of six independents.

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