End of the road for Deve Gowda?
Haradanahalli Dodde Gowda Deve Gowda, 73, a civil engineer by training, began his political career with the Congress party in 1953 and, in 1962, left to contest elections as an independent from Holenarsipur, near Mysore. He was elected to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly from this constituency, which remained his bastion for the next three elections.
Jailed during the Emergency in 1975, for opposing Indira Gandhi, Deve Gowda soon became an important figure in the Janata Party, which he joined in 1969.
The Janata Party - of which only the JD(S) and late Ramakrishna Hegde's Janata Dal (United) remain - emerged as a powerful alternative to the Congress in Karnataka.
Even up until the 1980s, its most strident voice was that of Hegde's, who shaped its ideology as a regional party. Gowda, the earthy politician and Hegde, the suave, media-savvy one, did not really ever get along. In fact, their strained relations led to a split in 1989, when Gowda joined the Samajwadi Janata Party, leading to a disastrous performance in the 1989 and 1991 polls.
By the mid-1990s, however, Gowda came into his own. What had started - and remained, under Hegde - an anti-Congress party soon established itself in rural Karnataka under Gowda's leadership. His Vokkaliga community supported Gowda as did the backward castes.
He rejoined the Janata Party and became the president of the state unit. Ignoring his differences with Hegde in order to campaign jointly, he reaped the benefits in 1994, when the party came back to power in Karnataka, with 115 seats in the 224-seat Assembly. Deve Gowda became chief minister of Karnataka.
"Our main strength is that we have widened the social base of the Janata Dal," he had proclaimed with much pride in 1996, when the party won 16 out of 28 Lok Sabha seats.
Soon after, Deve Gowda became a name to contend with in national politics.
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