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Former PM Deve Gowda Gives Nod to Contest RS Polls from Karnataka, Cong Extends Support to Take on Modi Govt

File photo of JD(S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda.

File photo of JD(S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi is reportedly keen on getting Gowda back in Parliament to take on the Modi government.

Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda firmly believes in the saying “Politicians don’t retire, they just fade away”. At 87, Gowda is all set to enter Parliament once again, this time through a backdoor.

Gowda, who lost the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Tumkur by a narrow margin of 13,000 votes, was not initially interested in returning to Parliament through the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) as it is against his principles because he always chose the direct elections to both Karnataka Assembly and Parliament since 1962. He was briefly in the Rajya Sabha for two years when he was made the Prime Minister in 1996. Except this, which he describes as an aberration, he won seven assembly elections and six Lok Sabha elections in the last 58 years. He has lost three out of 16 direct elections he has fought so far.

However, JDS MLAs and other leaders have succeeded in convincing him that he should go to Parliament, even if it is through the backdoor, as the situation is grim for the party. The Congress, which has about 16 excess votes, has agreed to back the stalwart. The Congress has already nominated party heavyweight M Mallikarjuna Kharge as its candidate for the one seat it can easily win. Like Gowda, Kharge, too suffered a shock defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections at the hands of BJP.

According to insiders, AICC president Sonia Gandhi is keen on getting Gowda back in Parliament to take on the Modi government. She has assured him of full support and excess votes.

Four Rajya Sabha seats are going to be filled up from Karnataka on June 19. The ruling BJP can easily win two seats. The Congress can win one seat comfortably. The JDS with 34 MLAs needs 14 more votes to win the seat and the Congress which has 16 extra votes is willing to help. Each candidate requires a minimum of 48 first preference votes to sail through.

After the collapse of Gowda’s son HD Kumaraswamy-led JDS-Congress coalition government in July 2019, the relationship between the two went southwards. Gowda and his family had directly blamed state Congress leaders, particularly former chief minister Siddaramaiah, for the toppling of the government. Siddaramaiah had also hit back at them, calling Gowdas the most unethical family.

Some reliable sources in the Congress claim Siddaramaiah camp is against the party backing Gowda in the Rajya Sabha elections. They fear that it may lead to political rebirth and revival of the struggling JDS, which is going through a steep decline ever since the loss of power last year.

But Sonia Gandhi seems to have overruled their objections, saying Gowda should be in Parliament to take on the Modi government under current situation. There are some political calculations too. The BJP is likely to field a third candidate to break JDS votes. If the party fields any other candidate, other than Gowda, there is no guarantee of winning the seat. Both the Congress and JDS feel the BJP may not try to defeat Gowda as it may anger the Vokkaligas who still accept him as their tallest leader.

State Congress president DK Shivakumar has his own calculations. Being a Vokkaliga, he has to take on the fellow Vokkaligas, the Gowdas, in old Mysore region in the next assembly elections. By backing Gowda in the Rajya Sabha, he can manage the caste, he feels.

If there is no earth-shaking move by the BJP, Gowda’s victory is a foregone conclusion. He will be the second prime minister in the house of elders, along with Dr Manmohan Singh of the Congress. The entry of the ‘Son of the Soil’ to Parliament may even change the political equations in Karnataka.