A senior politician who has been in the field since 1971, a three time MLA and a progressive farmer, who has served in the co-operative sector and as co-operation minister, 66-year-old G.T. Devegowda had no qualms in admitting that he was an ardent supporter of CM Siddaramaiah from 1983 to 2006. “I was the first to say that Siddaramaiah should be CM way back in 1994 in Kalamandir in Mysuru. He worked hard to ensure he became Deputy CM in 2004. But Siddaramaiah has not met my expectations as CM. He has disappointed people of Chamundeswari, Varuna and the entire state as he has not done anything special to find permanent solutions or create employment on a large scale. All he has done is launch temporary programmes like any other CM would do. He will certainly not win in Chamundeswari again,” the veteran leader asserted in an interview with DC. The sitting JD(S) MLA from Chamundeswari is working with aggrieved former Congress leaders to consolidate the anti-Congress votes in old Mysuru. “Mr H.D. Deve Gowda’s experience and Mr H.D. Kumaraswamy’s past achievements will make Kumaranna CM, or else JD(S) will sit in the opposition but will not join hands with anyone,” he declared. The Vokkaliga leader drew a parallel between the plight of Siddaramaiah and former CM Devraj Urs saying that though Urs brought about revolutionary programmes to ensure social justice and implemented land reforms, he was left with a handful of leaders including R.L. Jalappa and Nazir Saab at the end. Claiming that there was an anti-Siddaramaiah wave not just among people of Chamundeswari but among 80 per cent of Congress leaders, he said the CM has not given adequate prominence to those leaders and seniors who sacrificed for the party and supported him. They are quiet because he is CM and are waiting to teach him a lesson, claimed the veteran leader. Excerpts from the interview:
It’s almost certain that the CM will contest from Chamundeswari.
Even our leader Deve Gowda has announced that I would be the candidate of JD(S) in Chamundeswari. Now let the people decide. Siddaramaiah says Chamundeswari and Varuna are like his two eyes. He plans to contest in Chamundeswari to create an opportunity for his son Dr S Yathindra in Varuna.
But Siddaramaiah says he wants his last election to be from Chamundeswari which has given him birth and rebirth, and make it a model constituency.
He first wanted to be opposition leader just once. Later he wanted to be CM just once, and when he became CM, he announced in the Assembly that he would not contest election anymore. Congress leaders were worried that if he did not contest, he would not work for the party, and even wanted to change the leadership. At this point, he voluntarily announced that he would contest again. Now he is saying he will be CM again too.
What are Siddaramaiah’s prospects in Chamundeswari?
What did he do for 25 years here? Anyone can take up a multi village water system. He could have saved 2500 Falcon Tyres employees. Has he made the state slum-free? How many local leaders who worked for him have got positions at the state level? 80 percent of the 80,000 Vokkaliga voters are with me. People have seen my work as district minister, I have taken governance to their door step and cleared 75,000 applications in 100 days. They feel I am trustworthy.
There are strong rumours that just before the polls, you will join the Congress.
Why would I do that? I am committed to work for the JD(S), they have great love for me.
During the Nanjangud byelection, you said JD(S) ignored you, and Siddaramaiah has said at public meetings that you supported them in Nanjangud. You wanted your son Harishgowda to contest from Hunsur which you represented twice, but the JD(S) is fielding A.H. Vishwanath.
Yes, I was upset during the Nanjangud by- election because I was not allowed to lead from the front and so I remained neutral. I won twice in Hunsur before I came to Chamundeshwari, so I wanted my son to be fielded from Hunsur. And I was upset that I was not consulted when they decided to field Mr Vishwanath. But now after Mr Kumaraswamy and Anitha Kumaraswamy came to our house and told me that we are the same family, we sacrificed Hunsur for the sake of Mr Vishwanath. They wanted to have a Kuruba leader in the party.
The JD(S) is still unsure of putting you up against Siddaramaiah. They seem to be preparing to field Prajwal Revanna, Deve Gowda’s grandson.
Prajwal wanted to contest from Hunsur but is now trying to contest from Rajarajeshwari Nagar in Bengaluru. Mr Deve Gowda will decide on this. I will certainly contest against Siddaramaiah, it will be a tough battle for him.
Why did you and A.H. Vishwanath meet BJP leader Srinivas Prasad recently?
I personally have great respect for Srinivasprasad. It was with his support I became vice-president of the APMC in 1993. He is coming out with his autobiography in November on his work, his support to Siddaramaiah and what he did to him. Yes, we want to consolidate anti-Congress votes in 11 constituencies in Mysuru, we will win at least 8.
Siddaramaiah says the JD(S) is not strong enough to seize power independently.
The country’s economy is on the decline because of demonetisation. If the BJP is still in power at the Centre, it is only because of the failures of the Congress as an opposition party. So people are turning towards regional parties. There are opportunities for the JD(S) to win power if we field the right candidates. We plan to make booth level committees and take the work of Kumaranna and his future plans to every doorstep with the “Mane Manege Kumaranna” programme. There is confusion over tickets for 40-45 constituencies, which will be decided based on a private survey.