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BJP's allies will fall in line, otherwise everybody will be exposed - The Indian Express

Pamela Philipose ()
March 8, 1998

Title: JP's allies will fall in line, otherwise everybody will be exposed
Author: Pamela Philipose
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: March 8, 1998

Revenge couldn't have been sweeter for Karnataka leader
Ramakrishna Dodamane Hegde. With the Lok Shakti-BJP front having
swept Karnataka in the recent Lok Sabha elections and the Janata
Dal virtually decimated, it was his moment in the sun once more.
For one thing, the election results had proved his bete noire,
H.D.Deve Gowda, who had derided him for not having mass support,
completely wrong

For the past few days, Hegde has been camping in Delhi, making
his presence felt in his characteristically understated fashion
during these days of hectic behind-the-scenes political activity.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview given to Pamela Philipose.

It looks as if the BJP gained more from its alliance with you,
than you did from it. BJP seats jumped from six to 13, while the
Lok Shakti won only 3.

I don't think 1 could have done better on my own. You know my
difficulty was that as against 10 MPs 1 had hoped would join me,
only six or seven did. Otherwise my position would have been
much, much stronger, vis-a-vis the BJP. I would have got a larger
number of seats - at least 14 or 15. But although three out of
10 looks rather poor, it is not so bad if you consider that the
party is not even one year old. M But, thanks to you, the BJP
made a quantum leap in the State.

That's very true. They realise it now. They could not have won
the Udipi seat, for instance, without my having campaigned for
them there. It's a minority-dominated area. Everywhere I went I
said, if you have trust in me, you can rest assured that nothing
is going to happen against your interests.

Currently, there seems to be a scramble at the Centre for the
finance minister's portfolio should a BJP-led government come to
power, with the party's allies reportedly pushing their
candidates for the post.

I do not know to what extent this is true, but if it is a fact,
this is not a healthy development - particularly when the
situation is as difficult as it is now. I, for one, would say
that no constituent unit in this coalition should press for any
claim. Their only concern must be to ensure that this experiment
is a success.

But each BJP ally has extended support for their own political

We should rise above them.

But your name is also doing the rounds for a senior ministerial

I, for one, would not like to add to the problems of the prime
minister - or rather the prime minister designate. I am not a
person who asks for anything, either for myself or my party. I
have never done so in my life.

That's why you have called upon Jayalalitha and others to join a
possible BJP-government rather than provide outside support?

Absolutely. I also have no doubt that they will all fall in line
on this. Otherwise everybody will be exposed. The result will be
another election. Do you think all these leaders would like to
face the voters again? They will just spit on them.

But Chandrababu Naidu has a genuine problem.

Naidu's case is different, he has a real problem. We cannot
forget that he is the convenor of the United Front, even though
Mr Deve Gowda, as chairman of the UF organisational committee,
has successfully liquidated the UF. He first sent me out, then
expelled Laloo Prasad Yadav. He insulted everybody including Biju
Patnaik. In all the States where the Janata Dal was very strong,
it was reduced to nothing. Mulayam and he could not see eye-to-
eye. Then DMK-TMC was reduced to a quarter of its original
strength. The only constituent of the UF which still has some
kind of presence is the TDP.

Now Naidu cannot go with the Congress. I know Surjeet is playing
every trick in the book to get Naidu to see his point of view and
V.P. Singh is trying to exert his so-called moral pressure. They
don't even appreciate that Naidu has to face the Congress
onslaught in his State day after day. With regard to the BJP and
its allies, he has certain reservations no doubt. He has a
reputation to protect. He has described himself as secular. But
more than that, he has been trying to build a Muslim vote bank.
He stands to lose that support. His best course at the moment is
to keep neutral and keep his bargaining power.

You are in a similar situation, because you too have a secular

I am not a slogan-mongering secularist. I am by conviction a
secularist and have been so all my life. It is not just for
political reasons that I am one. Therefore, the minorities still
have faith in me. I had to explain this to them, of course, to
dispel their fears.

How can you ensure that they will continue to stand by you?

I will not hesitate to oppose any attempt to disturb the policy
or programme that we are currently trying to evolve as a front.

But the current programme or national agenda is necessarily
watered down because the BJP doesn't command a majority. In the
future, things may he different.

That would be reading too much into the situation. After all,
they are also practical people. Once they come to power, they
will have to make certain adjustments. They will have to carry
all the people of this country with them.

Hegde and Deve Gowda have become two heroes in a revenge drama.
It all started, I believe, when you, as Karnataka CM, put the
police on his trail.

I never do such things. That is his habit. When I was chief
minister of the State in 1987, the BJP leader in the assembly
made some allegations against Deve Gowda. I asked for proof. He
sent me the records. I referred them to the investigating
authorities or the Lok Ayukta, I don't remember. What is wrong
with this? As a CM, I had to do this.

By the time the report came on the case, I had already resigned
as CM. It involved 60 sites of prime land in Mysore. He got his
own caste man appointed as the chairman of the Mysore Development
Authority and posted officers from the same community under him.
That is how they were able to hush up the whole thing. Even
today the records must be there, if he hasn't had them destroyed
when he became CM.

But this feud has ultimately destroyed the Janata Dal in
Karnataka and perhaps even on an all-India level.

There is no feud, you see. I could have finished him, but mine is
not an avenging nature. Recently, he said that these people
referring to me - are leaders created by the media, not the
masses. But what did this election show? That I am just a
creation of the media? Where is he now?

But, as a result, a party that you helped make is today

It was I who formed the Janata Dal. At that time, Deve Gowda was
opposed to this. Chandra Shekhar was opposed to it. Bommai was
opposed to it. V.P. Singh only agreed to join after he was
expelled from the Congress. Until then he kept telling me that
he was still a Congressman. Yet the values that the Janata Dal
represented are not there anymore.

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