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'My opponents want to create a tamasha'
Nistula Hebbar

JD-S supremo H D Deve Gowda
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Coverage: Political Crisis in Karnataka

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November 26, 2007

Janata Dal-Secular chief and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda talks about the political scenario in Karnataka, his nemesis S M Krishna and his interest in astrology.

Some excerpts from the interview:

Can you explain your flip-flop on extending support to the Bharatiya Janata Party to form a government in Karnataka?

The origins of the present crisis lie in the behaviour of 'some elements' of the Congress party with the JD-S when we had a coalition government. By 'some elements' I mean Maharashtra Governor S M Krishna. He and his son-in-law had come to us to help in forming a government in Karnataka after the Congress debacle in the 2004 elections. At first, I politely declined but relented later. But after that, these elements continued to steadily undermine the government so much so that they managed to sway a few of my legislators, including Siddaramiah.

After the Zila Parishad elections, when nine panchayats showed no clear majority, the Congress entered into an alliance with Siddaramiah in four of these panchayats. Could we then have continued our relationship with the Congress?

I still maintain good relations with Sonia Gandhi [Images]. In fact, I told her then that her party in Kerala [Images] was in all sorts of trouble after removing Karunakaran (former Kerala chief minister who was expelled from the Congress) and how much more trouble the party would be in if it did not eliminate trouble-makers in Karnataka.

Ultimately, I decided it was better for our party to bow out of the alliance. Someone should apply under the Right to Information Act to check how many times S M Krishna travelled to Karnataka during that period, although he was a Governor.

That is water under the bridge. What about the BJP?

Legislators of the BJP and our party did not want polls at that time and decided to form an alliance. I was against it and disciplinary action was taken against the legislators. I watched the performance of the alliance from afar however, and realised that the BJP was bent on humiliating my son and the party.

Despite transfer of power being months away, the debate raged on in the streets and the electronic media. The nadir of the alliance was when Sriramulu (BJP legislator from Bellary and a minister in the Kumaraswamy government) accused my son of being part of a conspiracy to kill him.

I wanted the state alliance to be ratified by the national leadership and spoke to Yashwant Sinha (BJP general secretary in charge of Karnataka affairs) in Bangalore and BJP President Rajnath Singh at Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar's (from JD-S) house in Delhi. I suggested certain things for the smooth running of the alliance which the BJP's parliamentary board rejected.

This is part one of the story, what about recent developments?

After imposition of President's rule, the BJP and I both wrote to the Governor seeking immediate dissolution of the assembly. I did it in Gujarat when I was the prime minister, because the Bommai judgment does not apply to all cases. This was not done. I apprehended a real danger to my party and talks were reinitiated with the BJP.

[The SR Bommai vs Centre case: The judgment, delivered by the Supreme Court on May 11, 1994, defined the use of Article 356 and imposition of President's rule. When the then Congress government at the Centre dismissed the S R Bommai government in Karnataka in 1989, Bommai challenged the dismissal. In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court held that a state government could be dismissed only under extenuating circumstances, and laid down guidelines for such a dismissal. Though political parties have flouted the Supreme Court norms, the Bommai case has made dismissing state governments and imposing President's rule a little more difficult.]

What about M P Prakash talking to the Congress?

He did talk to them but he reported back everything, he was not a Trojan horse like Siddaramiah.

If you were afraid your MLAs would break away, why did you put so many conditions before the BJP?

I wrote to Rajnath Singh on my letterhead in the most general terms, without mentioning the NICE project or even Bellary mines issue. All my suggestions in the letter were to avoid the humiliation of the last 20 months.

The BJP state unit, in turn, sent an agreement on stamp paper with humiliating conditions, including changing the Speaker when they knew that my party was facing disqualification issues.

Till the last moment, I tried, but first the central leadership and then Yeddyurappa declined to sign the agreement. Yet, it was my son who was called 'vachan bhrashta' (promise-breaker) all over the media. I was not keen on being humiliated again, and the BJP leaders had already started issuing statements like "murder of democracy" etc, so I decided to not support the government.

One would have thought that the BJP, which wanted a government in the south badly enough to charter a flight and fly 90 people for the swearing-in from Delhi, would at least use its common sense.

Are you in touch with the Congress now? 

The only time I met any Congress leader recently was on November 15, in Parliament, when I met Congress's Prithviraj Chavan in Priyaranjan Dasmunshi's office. He said he was sorry about everything and wanted to work something out. It is too late now.

But don't you think you have become a political untouchable now?

Whether I am or not, will be decided by the people of Karnataka. We have done very well in the local polls, and it is not up to parties like the Congress and the BJP to decide whether I am politically untouchable.

Your son is saying that he will form a new party...

That is not true; he only said he would take 'appropriate action at the appropriate time.' The legislators are upset; he is trying to keep up their morale. Despite reports to the contrary, father and sons are together (laughs).

What kind of a chief minister do you think Kumaraswamy made?

He was popular and that became his problem. Contrast him with Yeddyurappa. On the day Yeddyurappa became chief minister he demanded and got Z-plus security! Whatever for?

My son travelled to villages, stayed in huts with AIDS-affected families, ate what they ate and did 'janata darshan' programmes for hours at a stretch. He knew he had threats from people like Janardhan Reddy, but he neither asked for black or even white cats (laughs).

You are reputed to be superstitious and supposed to blindly believe in astrology?

I wouldn't say that. I have deep and abiding belief in God. I am also deeply secular. I have visited Ajmer dargah, Golden Temple in Amritsar [Images] and asked for Vajpayee's dismissal when Graham Staines and his sons were killed. My father, of course, had my birth chart made when I was born -- I could not have prevented him then, it is with me -- and if somebody wants to make predictions I cannot stop them.

I do not anticipate coming to power on the basis of astrology. I have put up candidates in all the 222 seats in Karnataka assembly. Please ask these candidates whether I have asked for their charts. My opponents want to create a tamasha (show), what can I do?

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