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Deve Gowda shows his true colours

india Updated: Jan 17, 2010 23:18 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
Hindustan Times
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By using abusive language against Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda has shown that he has not risen above petty caste and regional politics despite the high office he once occupied. The kind of invectives used (but later denied) by Gowda reveal that he has not evolved as a politician and may well go down in history as among the most mediocre heads of government we have had.

Whatever be the provocation, no politician should use the kind of language Deve Gowda used against Yeddyurappa. In fact, no one in public life should be allowed to get away with such intemperate behaviour. Yeddyurappa is the chief minister of a state and deserves a modicum of respect. If there are differences, they should be expressed at an appropriate forum or through a press conference. But never by using language that’s unacceptable in civilised society.

Senior BJP leaders, including LK Advani, had described the Prime Minister as a ‘nikamma’ and ‘the weakest PM in history’ and paid the price for using those expressions. The voters in 2009 not only rejected the BJP but also endorsed Manmohan Singh’s leadership. The middle classes, in particular, steered clear of the saffron party to help the Congress win 206 seats in the Lok Sabha.

Deve Gowda is known for being an opportunistic politician. He has flirted with the RSS whenever it has suited him and presented himself as a secular leader in order to align with other secular parties. When his son, HD Kumaraswamy, joined hands with the BJP to become the chief minister of Karnataka, the former prime minister declared without batting an eyelid that it was the death of secularism and that the arrangement was not acceptable to him.

But it was well-known that it was Deve Gowda himself who had inspired his son to occupy the high office. When the time to hand over power to the BJP came, he reiterated his earnest commitment to secular values. His is a case of a small-time politician rising above his competence level.

Deve Gowda, as we all know, was never prime minister material. But destiny willed otherwise. Most secular leaders had got together after the Congress failed to get a majority in 1996 to find a substitute for

PV Narasimha Rao. The need to find a secular leader was felt by everyone given that Atal Bihari Vajpayee had become the first person from the saffron brigade to become the PM even if for only 13 days. The PM’s post was then offered to Jyoti Basu of the CPI(M), but his party turned it down in what is described as a historic blunder.

There was an attempt to persuade an unwilling VP Singh to accept the position, but he was not inclined under any circumstances. Congress veteran

GK Moopanar was another name that was considered. Deve Gowda became a surprise choice as the needle in the Russian roulette being played stopped at his name even as he dozed off under the impression that he had no chance. The uncertainties and follies of coalition politics were the evidence in this case. His period was one of the worst in Indian history and then Congress president Sitaram Kesri decided to pull his government down after realising enough was enough.

In the latest instance, Deve Gowda also seems to have targeted Yeddyurappa hoping that it will help consolidate his position within his own caste. While Deve Gowda is a Vokkaliga, the Karnataka chief minister belongs to the Lingayat community. But no Vokkaliga is likely to endorse the use of such language. In any case, the man who claims to be a secular leader is perhaps the one his detractors hold responsible for bringing the BJP to power in the south for the first time. Between us.