Bengaluru, June 1 (PTI) Exactly 25 years ago on this day, H D Deve Gowda was at the centre of one of the surprising turn of events in the country's political history that catapulted him onto the national stage and securing the Prime Minister's post without seriously aspiring for it.
With barely 18 months as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Gowda, who has had no big role in national politics till then, assumed charge as the 11thPrime Minister on June 1,1996, after emerging as the leader of the 13-party United Front, which was supported by the Congress from outside.
He was the 14th Chief Minister of Karnataka from 1994 to 1996.
Congress losing decisively in the 1996 Lok Sabha election, and fall of the 13-day government led by BJP's Atal Bihari Vajpayee, preceded his entry into the national political scene.
Popularly known as 'Mannina Maga' (son of the soil), Gowda is the only Kannadiga and second south Indian after P V Narasimha Rao to have occupied the top post.
Gowda, who has called himself an 'Accidental Prime Minister' on several occasions in the past, has stated that it was leftist stalwart Jyoti Basu's chance to become PM that surprisingly landed in his lap, and it was the former West Bengal Chief Minister himself who proposed his name for PM.
Gowda was the Prime Minister for less than a year (324 days) until April 21, 1997, as had to demit office, with Congress withdrawing support.
It is said that Gowda's differences with Sitaram Kesri, who became Congress president after Narasimha Rao, cost him the post, following which Inder Kumar Gujral was chosen as leader of the United Front and he became the Prime Minister.
Currently, the 88-year-old leader is a member of Rajya Sabha and JD(S) national president.
C M Ibrahim, who was Minister of Information and Broadcasting in Gowda's cabinet, speaking to PTI, termed the tenure under the former Prime Minister as the 'golden era of the country', and for the first time a 'man from the soil, a humble farmer', had risen to that level.
Recalling the 'corruption-free' administration, he said, Gowda's 'dress, character and history' was all 'white', and pointed out that he 'showed the world that Kashmir was part of India and the strength of democracy by holding elections, and through his multiple visits there.' Highlighting Gowda's simplicity and modest living amid Lutyens' Delhi, Ibrahim said he relished his favourite 'Ragi Mudde' (Ragi dumplings) even at 7, Race Course Road, the PM's official residence and the doors were open for any one who come to meet him.
'..it is bad luck of this country that his tenure was short, Sitaram Kesri knowing that if he will allow this south Indian, he may become another Chaudhary Charan Singh (former PM) from Karnataka, withdrew support,' he said, while listing Gowda's various contributions to the country and the state, especially like the Upper Krishna Project.
One-time close associate of the former Prime Minister, Ibrahim is currently with the Congress as its MLC, and has dropped hints about plans to come back to the JD(S).
In a writeup about his father's political legacy on the occasion of the silver jubilee of oath-taking as PM, JD (S) leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy describes Gowda's 11 months of Prime Ministership, as a 'milestone', as he took the country towards development without any corruption.
'In his (Gowda) long political career, he was in power only for 18 months as CM and 11 months as PM.. power never made him arrogant, he never gave up his ideology for the sake of power,' the former Prime Minister's son said.
State Congress President D K Shivakumar said it is a matter of great pride for Karnataka that Gowda was the Prime Minister.
'No one from the state had got that opportunity...because of his struggle he reached the top post. It was a happy moment for all of us, leaving aside political differences. Let him continue to guide the state,' he said.
Gowda counts his visits to Jammu and Kashmir, shortly after taking over, and the first PM do so after a gap of nine years, also about holding elections there in 1996, thereby ending the long stint of Governor's rule (about six years) among the highlights of his tenure.
Another achievement he often highlights is the ceasefire agreement with Naga groups in 1997, which followed his meeting as Prime Minister with Naga leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah in Zurich, in February that year, as a result of 'constructive diplomacy'.
Gowda is also credited by his party leaders and supporters for giving thrust for the IT sector by announcing a tax holiday, resolving dispute with Bangladesh on sharing of Ganga river water, announcing a financial package of about Rs 6,000 crore for northeastern states, among others.
To celebrate the silver jubilee of Gowda's oath taking as the Prime Minister, his party, the JD(S) is organising a campaign to commemorate his achievements.
As part of the 'Saadhanegala Smarane' (remembrance of achievement), senior politicians and journalists will share their opinion on Gowda's political journey, achievements and his contribution to the country and the state, the JD(S) has said.
The 25-days campaign from June 1 to 25 will see 25 noted personalities speak about Gowda via video, which will be posted on JD(S)' officials twitter and Facebook accounts at 5 pm everyday.PTI KSU RS BN BALA BN BALA