With his latest political somersault Janata Dal (S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda, the staunch opponent of ‘communal forces’ all through his four and a half decade long political career, could well earn the distinction of being the person responsible for ushering in the first BJP chief minister in South India.
Deve Gowda’s decision to support a BJP chief minister comes just four days after he dashed off letters to the President, the Prime Minister and the Governor of Karnataka seeking immediate dissolution of the Karnataka assembly and holding of fresh elections.
Both MP Prakash of the JD(S), who has opposed supporting the BJP, and the Congress, are recalling these letters in their efforts to persuade governor Rameshwar Thakur not to give the BJP-JD(S) ‘reunited’ alliance a second chance to form the government.
A JD(S) minister in the previous government recalled that it was indeed Deve Gowda who restrained his son Kumaraswamy from handing over the letter supporting Yediyurappa as chief minister, to the governor. At one stage Kumaraswamy was quite willing to do so. But Deve Gowda even called Governor Thakur to ensure that even if Kumaraswamy sent such a letter, it should not be honoured. “There were 28 of us MLAs who had signed letters saying we would support a government with a BJP chief minister since that was the original agreement. But Revanna (another of Deve Gowda’s sons) pleaded with us that such a step would hurt Deve Gowda so much, it might just kill him,” he revealed.
According to party sources, Gowda’s volte face was a panic reaction to a covert attempt by some Congress leaders led by his bete noire Siddaramaiah to split the JD(S), and form another government with Congress support, completely isolating the patriach himself.
The moment he heard about a meeting between rebel JD(S) MLA Prakash and Siddaramaiah he gave his consent to going back to the BJP. In the wee hours of Saturday he called Kumaraswamy to instruct him to meet Yediyurappa over and hand over the crucial letter of support.
But the numbers game within the JD (S) may well become intigruing in coming days. Not all its MLAs are ready to go back to supporting the BJP. Of its 58 legislators, at least 39 - or two thirds - have to agree to support the BJP to qualify for recognition as a breakaway group. But does Kumaraswamy have that many people?