H.D. Deve Gowda (Mint file)
H.D. Deve Gowda (Mint file)

Deve Gowda: Karnataka’s humbled Goliath

  • Gowda is among old-school politicians, well known for their coalition building skills
  • He won seven terms as a legislator since 1962, and six terms as Member of Parliament since 1991 including one stint as Karnataka CM and another as Prime Minister of India

Bengaluru: Often referred to as ‘mannina maga’ or son of soil, former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda has always been grounded despite his steady rise in politics and admirers galore across party lines in his five-decade old career.

From being the glue that held coalitions together to help stitch alliances, Gowda is among the old school politicians, well known for their coalition building skills that has kept them in power and relevant despite the passage of time and numerous elections.

Few in the country can boast of his political acumen, that has seen the 87-year old win seven terms as a legislator since 1962, and six terms as Member of Parliament since 1991 including one stint as chief minister of Karnataka and another as the prime minister of India.

“From Haradanahalli to New Delhi" was the caption given by many in the media when he became the prime minister, capturing his journey from a small village in Hassan in Karnataka to the political hotbed of the national capital.

But the political maestro hit a hurdle on Thursday, losing the third election of his career as he fell to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wave in Karnataka and the rest of the country.

Deve Gowda, who gave up his bastion Hassan for his grandson, Prajwal Revanna, contested from neighbouring Tumkur. He lost to little known G. S. Basavaraju of BJP by a slender margin of 13,339 votes on Thursday.

“I thank the voters, leaders, party workers of both @JanataDal_S & @INCIndia and everyone who supported me. Our work towards betterment of the society will never stop. Congratulations to all the elected MPs. Congratulations to @narendramodi on the big victory," a gracious Deve Gowda wrote on Twitter.

Deve Gowda had stopped the Modi’s juggernaut from rolling into Karnataka in 2018 by stitching up an alliance with Congress and getting the better-half of the deal despite being the smaller partner.

But the Modi wave was stronger and bigger this time. Modi on Thursday created history by becoming the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to come back to power for a second time with full majority, having served a full five-year term. The BJP won 303 of the 542 Lok Sabha constituencies, when most thought its 2014 tally of 282 was insurmountable

So it was not surprising that many veterans, including those of Congress, tasted defeats this general election. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge was defeated for the first time in his entire political career since 1972 at the hands of his former aide, Umesh Jadhav of the BJP. K.H.Muniyappa, seven-time Member of Parliament lost by a margin of over two lakh votes against S.Muniswamy, a little known corporator from Bengaluru. Former Karnataka chief minister Veerappa Moily lost to B.N.Bache Gowda of BJP.

Former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said people of Tumakuru and Kalaburagi (Gulbarga) meted out justice by defeating Deve Gowda and Kharge.

Many in the Congress also believe that Deve Gowda should have contested from Mandya or Bengaluru North as the decision to field his grandsons might have gone against him. People of Tumakuru also alleged that the veteran had denied the district water for all these years only to divert it to his home district of Hassan.

Going back on his own decision, Deve Gowda contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections because of the demand of leaders from other political parties.

“On 13 January, I said that this was my last speech in parliament where I had declared that it would be my last election," Deve Gowda had told Mint in an earlier interview. He said that leaders from other parties had insisted that he contest as his experience would be required to defeat the BJP.

But some believe that Deve Gowda may still have something up his sleeve.

“I can never write him off. He has come back so many times in the past," said Narendra Pani, political analyst and faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS). Those half his age or younger depend on his wisdom to make it in politics even today.

But age may not be on Gowda’s side.

“I will be 91 by the time of the next elections, age may not permit me at all," he said in an interview to Mint in April.