Importance of Deve Gowda: Leaders line up at ailing ex-PM’s home, from Siddaramaiah after 6 yrs to BSY

Importance of Deve Gowda: Leaders line up at ailing ex-PM’s home, from Siddaramaiah after 6 yrs to BSY


Concerns over the health of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, the 89-year-old Janata Dal (Secular) president, in recent weeks has led to several top Karnataka leaders visiting him at his residence in Bengaluru over the last few days.

Two former chief ministers, Siddaramaiah of the Congress and B S Yediyurappa of the BJP, visited Deve Gowda’s house on Monday night and Tuesday evening, respectively, to inquire about the health of the veteran politician, who still remains a key force in Karnataka politics.

A week ago, a senior minister in the BJP government, R Ashok, who represents the Assembly constituency where Deve Gowda lives in south Bengaluru, also paid a courtesy visit to him.

Siddaramaiah’s visit to Deve Gowda’s home came after a hiatus of nearly six years. Deve Gowda, who is from the Vokkaliga community which is dominant in south Karnataka, and Siddaramaiah, who is a key leader of the OBC Kuruba community, had been close colleagues in the JD(S) before the latter parted ways with him in 2006 to join the Congress.

“See, he is a senior politician of the country. I heard he was unwell and came to visit him. Our political affiliations are separate from our humanity. It is important to be humane. I have come to inquire about his health,” Siddaramaiah said after meeting Deve Gowda.

“I had come here in 2016 when I was the CM to consult him on the Cauvery issue. I did not come (this time) to discuss politics. His health is not too good is what I was told and so I came to visit him. We did not talk about politics. He spoke about his health and said that his knees were giving him trouble and that he cannot move around. He said he was eating normally. He is walking with a walker,” said Siddaramaiah, 75, who is currently the Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly.

“He said that he keeps watching all the developments on television. He said he had been listening to what we were saying in the Legislature,” the Congress leader said. “After 2016, I have not been able to visit him and we have been in separate parties.”

Deve Gowda 1 - Importance of Deve Gowda: Leaders line up at ailing ex-PM’s home, from Siddaramaiah after 6 yrs to BSY CM Basavaraj Bommai visits former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda at the latter’s residence. (Twitter/@JanataDal_S)

“Deve Gowda’s memory remains very strong,” said Congress leader and former minister, R V Deshpande, who was part of the Siddaramaiah team that visited the ailing stalwart.

The relations between Deve Gowda and Siddaramaiah have been strained since the latter left the JDS ostensibly due to the ex-PM’s bid to “promote” his own sons in the JD(S). Their respective communities, Vokkaligas and Kurubas, are also considered to be rivals in villages.

Yediyurappa, 79, also wished the JD(S) chief good health as he visited him. “I paid a visit to the home of former PM H D Deve Gowda today and inquired about his health. I wish him a speedy recovery. My wish is for him to serve the state and the country for many more years,” he said.

The former PM appeared to be “healthy and alert” in his meetings with his visitors in recent days. Sources however said that he had been unwell a few weeks ago and that he had now recovered.

Deve Gowda, sources said, had suffered falls on separate occasions in recent months. “There have been reports that he suffered a loss of memory for a while but is now alert again. This is what has prompted the visit by leaders to the home of the former PM,” sources said.

A few weeks ago, Deve Gowda’s sons, ex-CM H D Kumaraswamy and former minister H D Revanna, shed tears at a public event in Mandya while talking about their father. This was when the JD(S) supremo was unwell, sources said.

Deve Gowda is acknowledged as the patriarch of not only his own family but for the Vokkaliga community which makes up nearly 15 per cent of the population in south Karnataka. He is considered by political parties to be the key leader for winning the support of Vokkaligas. No other Vokkaliga leader has been able to match Deve Gowda’s hold over the community, although this has been attempted by his son Kumaraswamy to some extent and the Congress’s state president D K Shivakumar – who has been facing cases of corruption, income tax evasion and money laundering probed by various central agencies – to a lesser degree.

The Deve Gowda-led JD(S) remains a key political player in south Karnataka despite a diminishing of its political fortunes in recent elections. The party has been a kingmaker in the state after two elections in the past. The coming state Assembly polls are slated for May next year.

The elections for the 224-member state assembly threw up hung verdicts in 2004, 2008 and 2018, with the votes mainly split between the BJP, Congress, and JD(S). The JD(S) played kingmaker in 2004 and 2018 by winning 30-60 seats in south Karnataka.

While the support of the Vokkaliga community is considered key to winning polls in Karnataka for both the Congress and the BJP, the visitors who called on the former PM this week have also had relations with the JD(S) in the past, albeit they did not have very smooth ties.