Bengaluru: “A cat has nine lives, but Deve Gowda has 10!” is an oft-repeated phrase in Karnataka, as the former Prime Minister and ruling Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) supremo battles at the age of 86 to baptise two of his grandsons in the political terra firma.
As one of the powerful families in the southern state, belonging to the politically dominant Vokkaliga community, Gowda told the media recently that he was keen on ensuring his two grandsons carry on his family’s tradition of serving the people as two of his four sons have been doing over the years,
“What’s wrong if he wants his grandsons to follow in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfather, as they were born and brought up in a political family? Politics and serving the people is in their DNA,” JD-S spokesman Ramesh Babu told IANS here.
Refuting suggestions that Gowda was perpetuating dynastic politics by fielding grandsons Prajwal and Nikhil in the party’s bastions Hassan and Mandya Lok Sabha seats in the old Mysuru region, Babu said there was nothing wrong if the progeny took to politics like coots and ducks take to water.
“Why single out Gowda’s family when hundreds of families continue in the occupations of their fathers and forefathers, be it agriculture, business, commerce, films, industry, politics or trade? It’s common for every generation to carry on the legacy of its previous or past generations,” Babu asserted.
Polling is on April 18 in both the constituencies, along with 12 others in the state’s central and southern regions. Voting in the remaining 14 seats in coastal and northern regions is on April 23. The vote count, like in the rest of the country, will be on May 23.
Though the state’s late Congress chief minister S. Bangarappa groomed his two sons -Kumar and Madhu into politics as a career, it is the Gowda clan that stands out tall in the state, as the octogenarian’s third son H.D. Kumaraswamy is a second time Chief Minister and second son H.D. Revanna is a senior cabinet minister in the 10-month-old JD-S-Congress coalition government since May 2018.
Kumaraswamy became Chief Minister for the first time in February 2006 in the state’s second coalition government in alliance with the BJP for 20 months till October 2007. Revanna was then the PWD minister, as now.
Even Gowda was a PWD minister in Ramakrishna Hegde’s Janata Party government from 1983 to 1988.
Prajwal is the son of Revanna and Nikhil son of Kumaraswamy.
Gowda senior opted to contest from the Tumkur Lok Sabha constituency instead of from Hassan, which he represented for a record six times since 1991, paving way for Prajwal to enter politics in a big way.
Nikhil is also an upcoming Kannada film star, having acted in a couple of films, including one in Telugu.
Though Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha is a second time legislator from Ramangaram, Revanna’s wife Bhavani is politically active, helping her husband in looking after their pocket borough of Hassan.
Call it luck or god’s grace, Gowda is the only Karnataka politician to become Prime Minister. This happened in June 1996 after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee realised when he realised his 13-day BJP government would fail to get a vote of confidence in parliament.
Gowda is only the second politician from south India to become Prime Minister after P.V Narasimha Rao from the undivided Andhra Pradesh, who was in office from June 1991 to May 1996.
Gowda, however, lasted as Prime Minster for only 10 months (till April 1997) as the Congress, which extended support to the United Front-Left Front (UF-LF) government, withdrew this when Sitaram Kesari was its president.
The state’s 14th Chief Minister, Gowda’s tenure as the head of a Janata Dal-United (JD-U) government lasted from December 1994 to May 1996 as he resigned to become the country’s 11th Prime Minster in New Delhi.
Gowda returned to state politics after the UD-LF government at the centre, headed by I.K. Gujral, fell in March 1998 when the Congress again withdrew its support, leading to a mid-term general election in January-February, 1998.
After Karnataka’s JD-U government under J.H. Patel fell in October 1999 following its defeat in the assembly elections, Gowda broke away from the JD-U and formed the JD-S, with a modest presence then.
When the 2004 assembly elections threw up a hung house, the Congress formed a coalition government with the JD-S under its Chief Minster N. Dharam Singh, which lasted for only 20 months.
Fearing poaching by the Congress and split in the party (JD-S), Kumaraswamy revolted and joined hands with the BJP to form the second coalition government in February 2006 defying Gowda.
Betraying the BJP by not extending support to its coalition government and the exit of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of the Congress cost the JD-S dearly as it went downhill since the 2008 assembly elections, with its influence shrinking to the old Mysuru region.
A split verdict in the May 2018 assembly elections and a hung house revived the fortunes of the JD-S as a defeated Congress rushed to Gowda to extend unconditional support and promised a 5-year stint as Chief Minister to Kumaraswamy to keep the BJP out of power at any cost.
Now, Gowda has said he could not ask for more in life than seeing his grandsons in the Lok Sabha and his son Kumaraswamy completing his 5-year term and keep the JD-S alive and kicking.