Gowda, 85, is now actively engaged in backroom negotiations for a future federal front government in national politics.

 

Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal Secular (JDS) leader H.D. Deve Gowda is readying to emerge as the prime ministerial candidate for the regional parties’ camp, in case the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) falls short of a simple majority in the Lok Sabha after the next general elections that are likely to be advanced by a few months, to probably November or December this year.

From being completely out of reckoning for any power structure at the Centre, Gowda is now actively engaged in backroom negotiations for a future federal front government in national politics, if one were to go by the talks he held with Telangana Chief Minister and TRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) here this week.

Gowda was in Hyderabad on 30 June night and 1 July, as he came to attend the wedding of former Union minister and Rajya Sabha member T. Subbarami Reddy’s grandson. Gowda held talks with both KCR and KCR’s son and IT Minister, K.T. Rama Rao on national politics and appeared to be keen on playing an active role again at the Centre, sources in TRS told The Sunday Guardian.

Gowda, 85, who was India’s 11th Prime Minister from June 1996 to April 1997, is confident that given the fast changing political atmosphere in the country, there is a possibility of all non-BJP and non-Congress parties coming together and forming a government at the Centre, just like two decades ago. Gowda is so eager to pool up all regional parties that he spoke to KCR twice during the visit, first on Saturday night and again on Sunday morning, a TRS source close to the Chief Minister said. The former Prime Minister was full of energy and enthusiasm at the lunch hosted by KCR at his Begumpet official residence on Sunday, the leader said.

The former PM, according to TRS sources, is of the view that the present political situation in the country is akin to that of 1996, when neither Congress nor BJP was in a position to form the government at the Centre and his appointment as the PM by the so-called secular parties was a watershed moment. “The same is going to happen now,” Gowda is learnt to have told KCR.

KCR, though, hasn’t made any comments on the former PM’s observations, but agreed that Congress was not in a position to stage a comeback and the regional parties had to play a big role at the Centre, if the BJP failed to cross the halfway mark in the Lok Sabha. KCR has shown enough respect to Gowda as the latter had lent his support to the cause of a separate Telangana in the past.

The JDS supremo was also happy that his son Kumaraswamy could become the Chief Minister of Karnataka, though his party finished third in the polls. “They (Congress) had to back us as none of them (Congress and BJP) could muster a simple majority and people wanted a change and we took up the challenge,” explained Gowda to KCR and a group of TRS leaders present at the lunch.

Gowda told KCR that regional parties should come together and insist that a leader from among them should become the PM, in case BJP fails to get a simple majority in the Lok Sabha. The Congress might try to stake claim for the PM post, in case they emerge as the biggest Opposition party, but regional parties should oppose Rahul Gandhi becoming the PM, felt Gowda and KCR agreed to this suggestion.

The former PM told the Chief Minister that he and his son won’t hesitate to move away from Congress and take the help of BJP, in case the former creates trouble to his son’s government. Gowda said only this blunt message from his party had saved his son who wanted to present a fresh state budget in the Assembly, from former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah creating trouble to the nascent JDS-led government. Gowda told the TRS leadership that the Karnataka experiment should be a morale booster to the regional parties’ camp which is expected to play a role at the Centre soon. Gowda said he was in touch with a majority of regional leaders like Mayawati, Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu and the Left parties on this strategy. Though Gowda avoided openly saying that he was interested in becoming the PM again, as per sources, his assessment that a majority of regional chieftains are not keen on taking up that role leaves him as the strong contender for the top political executive post in the country. “He appeared like a future PM candidate,” said the TRS leader who wished not to be quoted.   KCR is impressed with Gowda’s line on national politics as it prevents Congress from coming to power or heading a government at the Centre. This is the reason why KTR went to Bangalore on Wednesday and called on CM Kumaraswamy and held further talks on unity among regional parties.

Gowda visited Delhi last week and met some second level leaders of different political parties and is likely to meet many more in future.

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