The Actual Accidental Prime Minister

A son of the soil, H.D. Devegowda brought together an unlikely set of people to form the government in 1996- that is, until all went into a downward tizzy.
The Man with fire in his eyes; Source: Zee

The Man with fire in his eyes; Source: Zee

When in 1996, H.D. Devegowda resigned as the CM of Karnataka to assume the Prime Ministership, everyone was taken aback. But the people who knew him weren't surprised. Devegowda had always punched above his weight and this occasion was no different.

Born in Haradanahalli, a village in Holenarasipura taluk, of the former Kingdom of Mysore, he lived a childhood of economic hardships. His father was a farmer and earned just about enough to send him off to school. The early struggles made him immune to adverse situations, a quality that helped him immensely in his political career later on.

After completing his schooling, he went away to L. V. Polytechnic in Hassan to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering.

After completing his higher education, he decided that it was time for him to go into politics. He wasn't in it for personal gain. Having lived the life of a have-not, he was in touch with the pulse of the downtrodden. If they had to get anywhere, he knew they needed representation in politics- someone who knew them, someone who knew what they wanted.

An outsider to the political elite, he was a member of Congress from 1953 to 1962. As time passed, he felt a disconnect with the motive he had come into politics because of the cursory strategy that Congress was pursuing alleviation with.

He left in search of more like-minded people- people who had seen inequality and destitution in the eye, people who were willing to go against the odds to get the job done. Alas, there weren't many people who resonated with his goal enough to fight alongside him.

So, Devegowda continued his political journey as an independent candidate, not bound by the chains of an official party line. He made the seat of Holenarasipura his fortress in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, winning it for six consecutive terms from 1962 till 1989.

10 years after he left the Congress, he found himself right in the middle of the Congress split. He became the Leader of Opposition from March 1972 to March 1976, heading Congress (O) fiercely against Indira.

For revolting and dissenting against Indira during the infamous years of the Emergency, he became one of the many leaders who were rounded up and put into jails.

After failing to find his calling for many years, jumping from one boat to another and back, he settled in Janata Dal. There, he became the face of the party and helped them to victory in the 1994 Karnataka State Elections and was rewarded with the post of the Chief Minister.

Now, he had his eyes on the biggest seat in Indian Politics. The 1996 elections were a peculiar case where both the BJP and Congress faltered. However, Janata Dal and Congress found common ground to come together- neither of them wanted BJP to form the government.

In the cradle of this unexpected friendship, the United Front was born. Everyone expected a Congress face to become the Prime Minister, but to everyone's surprise, Devegowda was given the opportunity to lead from the front.

Astute though he was, he could only hold the parties together for 10 months. Although there was some common ground, it was not enough for them to sustain a long-standing partnership. Congress felt ignored and unwanted and soon, broke away from the coalition. Even in his limited time, Devegowda made ample use of the opportunities that came his way.

Under his leadership, one of the most famous infrastructure projects, Delhi Metro's development was kickstarted.

Post his chaotic tenure as the PM, he has enjoyed considerable success but his career has been on the same topsy-turvy trajectory. He won from his constituency for four consecutive elections and even when he did lose, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha. Not a bad deal to be honest. Despite faltering at many junctions in his career, often through no fault of his own, Devegowda has had an illustrious career as a politician and even better one as the people's servant.


Share your Thoughts
Let us know what you think of the story - we appreciate your feedback. 😊
11 Share