Senior Karnataka BJP leader DV Sadananda Gowda, who took oath as one of the ministers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet on May 30, will head the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. It is a portfolio that he previously held.
After the death of Union Minister Ananth Kumar in November 2018, Gowda, who led the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, took additional charge of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.
Among the four vokkaliga caste BJP parliamentarians — Shobha Karandlaje, BN Bache Gowda, Pratap Simha and Sadananda Gowda — Gowda is the most experienced and non-controversial figure. With the absence of Congress leader Mallikarjuna Kharge and JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda, Sadananda Gowda happens to be the senior-most Karnataka leader in New Delhi.
For the BJP leadership, it will be easy to antagonise the vokkaliga growth considering BS Yeddyurappa, a lingayat, led the party’s state unit. Like Ananth Kumar, Gowda enjoyed the party high command’s confidence.
ABVP to BJP top command
From a student leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), an affiliate organisation of the BJP, to becoming a Jan Sangh (reconvened to form the BJP) and then grabbing power in Delhi, Gowda has come a long way. He played the role as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, four-time MP and two-time MLA.
Gowda, who contested from Bangalore North constituency, defeated Congress’ Krishna Byre Gowda, a member of HD Kumaraswamy’s ministry, in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.
The ever-smiling lawyer-turned-politician’s entry into the Union Ministry was nothing short of a big victory. In 2004 Lok Sabha elections, Gowda defeated Congress stalwart and former chief minister Veerappa Moily to make a maiden entry into the parliament. Both Moily and Gowda hailed from coastal Karnataka. Subsequently, he won the MP seat again in 2009.
Gowda became the chief minister by chance when Yeddyurappa had to quit the post after corruption charges were levelled against him in an illegal mining scam. The party was desperate to have an untainted person lead the party and state as the mining scam dragged BJP down in 2010-11. Infighting in the BJP marred his term as CM with Yeddyurappa accusing him of not giving enough weightage to his aides.
Within a year into his role as CM, Gowda introduced Sakala, guarantee of services to citizens in the State within the stipulated time limit, which, even today, remains a boon for people living in rural areas. But in 2013, the party lost power in the state and he contested against for the Lok Sabha in 2014.
The ups and downs in Delhi
Soon after the Modi government came to power for the first time in 2014, Gowda took charge as the Railway Minister. However, within six months, he was out of Railways and was made Law Minister in the first cabinet reshuffle. Apparently, according to analysts, his performance as Railway Minister was not satisfactory.
While it was a setback, he took look lead with the Law Ministry to get done with defunct and obsolete laws. As there were no remarkable achievements, again, the party high command transferred him to the Ministry of Statistics and Programmes Implementation.
The last portfolio he held somewhat turned controversial after Business Standard published a leaked report on unemployment in the country, which is at all time high in the past four decades. While the government wanted to hide the data, it was up for debate with the published report. The National Sample Survey Office’s report was part of his Ministry.
The issue gave the Opposition ammunition against the Modi government just ahead of elections this year. It became a poll plank and various parties made it their campaign talk. However, it was sidelined after the Pulwama attack and national security took importance with BJP’s campaigns.
Gowda dubbed the report as fake, and told the Lok Sabha that NSSO was still processing quarterly data from July-December 2018.
The BJP leadership was unhappy with the leak. Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, many expected Modi to drop Gowda from the cabinet.
With the state government under constant threat of re-election, the party needs to take vokkaligas into confidence.
Gowda may deny his appointment to the cabinet on caste lines. But for the party that won 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka, to make an equal representation with leading caste groups in the state, Gowda was important.