Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Deve Gowda backed Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate.
“As a coalition partner, I have no hesitation in extending my support. We want Rahul to be PM,” Deve Gowda said in an interview to Hindustan Times. He said Gandhi has gained in experience since becoming the Congress president, even though there is “room for improvement.”
Speaking further on Rahul Gandhi, Deve Gowda said the Congress president should refrain from saying ‘chowkidar chor hai’ (the watchman is a thief), referring to the slogan used by the Congress president to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi over alleged corruption issues. Nobody should use language that hurts the office of the prime minister, Deve Gowda said.
When asked about his views on the post-general election scenario, he said it is difficult to predict and that it will depend upon the mandate given by the people.
Harping back on the day his son HD Kumaraswamy took oath as the chief minister of Karnataka, he said, “All non-BJP, non-NDA (National Democratic Alliance) leaders and six chief ministers were on the dais. The euphoria created on that day, does it still remain? It is very difficult to answer that.”
He said, according to the formula between the Congress and the JD(S), his party should be contesting on 10 out of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state. While the party patriarch is not yet sure about contesting the election himself, he confirmed that his grandson Prajwal Revanna will be one of the candidates.
Reflecting upon the Modi government’s performance, the senior JD(S) leader said the programmes undertaken by this regime have not percolated to the common man.
“There is a vast difference in the quantum of publicity and the quantum of real ground-level benefit,” he said, adding that he believes no prime minister has spent on publicity as much as Modi.
He also criticised Modi for abstaining from the House during the Rafale deal debate. “The defence minister has done well, she made all the points. But the point is, why did the prime minister keep away from the House? Why does he speak outside the House? You have got a majority of 282 seats,” Deve Gowda said.
Faced with criticism of reducing JD(S) to a family enterprise, former prime minister said the notion was wrong as the party helped many grow including ex-chief minister and Congress strongman Siddaramaiah.
“Our critics often say JD(S) is the political party of Deve Gowda’s family. Have a look at these facts as well. We have made AH Vishwanath state president. Prior to that, I went to Krishnappa’s house (asking him) to join our party and observed fast for it. It (JD-S) is not Deve Gowda family. Didn’t we give prominent positions to Siddaramaiah, CM Ibrahim, Merajuddin Patel?”
Deve Gowda said that an impression has been created that the JD(S) belonged to the Deve Gowda family as his son HD Kumaraswamy was made the chief minister. He clarified that the ”pressure” to make his son chief minister came from the Congress and he could not help but bow to the wish.
“There was a big news that it was a father-son enterprise. Is it so easy to convince all the 37 MLAs to make him (Kumaraswamy) chief minister? They (Congress) came from Delhi and insisted me to give my approval. An hour-long discussion ensued because I did not agree for it. Finally they forced me to accept it ,” the former prime minister said.
Making an appeal to the party workers to work towards making the JD(S) strong, Deve Gowda asked them to ponder over the future of the party if it is not in power.
“Please don’t take it otherwise. There is no need to believe that we can resort to anything for power. How to save this party? Today, we have a coalition government but what will happen tomorrow,” Deve Gowda said.
The event also witnessed JD(S) leaders attacking their coalition partner in the government, the Congress. The two parties have agreed to fight to the upcoming Lok Sabha election together.
However, the two parties have not yet reached a consensus over sharing of seats. Instances of bickering often come to fore between the alliance partners as was seen at Hassan on Sunday.
In an angry rebuttal to Congress, Arakalgud MLA AT Ramaswamy said the JD(S) was ready to sit in the opposition rather than tolerating the “arrogant” behaviour of Congress.
“The arrogant statement that ‘we are twice your size and you have to listen to us” must go. I would like to say it absolute clearly that if this arrogance damages the interests of farmers and poor people, we will not think twice to sit in the opposition,” said Ramaswamy.
The JD(S) MLA warned the Congress that the party was under no pressure to run the administration by appeasing it.
He urged the party workers to gear up to see a Kannadiga unfurling the tri-colour from the Red Fort as had happened in 1998 when Deve Gowda became the prime minister.