BENGALURU: 25 years after JDS leader HD Deve Gowda ascended the Prime Minister’s seat — on June 1, 1996 — the party is celebrating the event, hoping to revive and reinvent the regional outfit. Gowda (88), one of two prime ministers from this side of the Vindhyas, and Karnataka’s kingmaker even today, had been catapulted into the top post after P V Narasimha Rao of the Congress failed to garner the numbers, as also Atal Behari Vajpayee of the BJP. Vajpayee had been sworn in Prime Minister, but fell short of numbers and resigned after 13 days. It was the United Front, a coalition of regional parties, which went on to form the government.
Celebrating this moment in history, the JDS on Tuesday launched a blitzkrieg of activities, with an eye on the 2023 election in Karnataka, and the bigger power game in 2024. JDS leaders said that with the BJP’s performance slipping and the Congress failing to catch up, they smell an opportunity for another coalition in 2024, where the JDS could play a key role, just as it did in 1996. Gowda, who spoke exclusively to TNIE, said, “There is a possibility of a coalition in 2024, and Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee could play a role.’’
Former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is the prime mover behind the activities. “We will have the ‘abhiyan’ for 25 days, till June 25, where important persons, politicians and journalists will recall the achievements and their memories of former PM Mr Deve Gowda and his tenure. Many youngsters do not know HD Deve Gowda and his contribution to the nation,’’ Kumaraswamy said. “We will follow it up with a series of activities on April 21 next year, when he demitted office.”
The party will be playing the ‘Mannina Maga’ card, highlighting the fact that the panche clad, ragi mudde eating farmer was the only Kannadiga to become Prime Minister. Kumaraswamy recalled how the “accidental PM” had helped mop up Rs 30,000 crore black money, a stupendous feat in those days. He had many plans to bring back black money from foreign banks, but his government collapsed after differences with Congress leader Sitaram Kesari.
The JDS hopes to keep the momentum going till the Karnataka elections. “We want to come to power on our own strength in 2023. The people have given both BJP and Congress a chance, we are requesting them to give our party a chance. I have a five-point programme, Pancha Ratna, which will benefit people immensely,” Kumaraswamy said.