Shri H. D. Deve Gowda, a staunch crusader of socio-economic development and an ardent admirer of the rich cultural heritage of India, was born on May 18, 1933 in Haradanahalli village of Holenarasipura taluk, Hassan District in Karnataka.
A Civil Engineering Diploma holder, Shri Deve Gowda plunged into active politics at the early age of 20 when, after completing his education, he joined the Congress Party in 1953 and remained a member till 1962. Coming from a middle class agrarian background and exposed to the hardships of farmer’s life, young Gowda vowed to become a fighter who would take up the cause of poor farmers, under privileged and oppressed sections of society.
Starting from lower strata of the democratic set-up, Shri Gowda ascended the political rungs gradually. He earned himself a niche in the minds of people while serving as the President of Anjaneya Co-operative Society and later as a member of Taluk Development Board, Holenarasipura.
Hoping to set right the inequalities prevailing in society, he always dreamt of an ideal utopian State. When just 28 years old, the youthful Gowda contested as an Independent and was a runaway success from day one when he first became a member of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in 1962. An effective Speaker on the floor of the Assembly, he was acclaimed by one and all, including his seniors. Holenarasipur constituency sent him to the Assembly for three more consecutive terms i.e., the Fourth (1967-71); the Fifth (1972-77) and the Sixth (1978-83) Assemblies.
His service as the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, from March 1972 to March 1976 and November 1976 to December 1977, won him laurels.
Shri Deve Gowda resigned his membership of the Sixth Assembly on November 22, 1982. As a member of the Seventh and the Eighth Assembly, he served as the Minister of Public Works and Irrigation. His tenure as Irrigation Minister saw the switching on of many irrigation projects. He resigned from the Cabinet in 1987 protesting against insufficient allocation of funds for Irrigation.
A crusader for freedom and equality, he earned the wrath of the powers that be at the Centre in 1975-76, and was imprisoned during the days of emergency. Shri Deve Gowda utilised this period of forced rest to enrich his knowledge through exhaustive reading. This, and the interaction between him and other stalwarts of Indian politics who were also jailed during that period, helped him mould his personality and perspective. He was a much more seasoned and determined person when he emerged out of his confinement.
Elected to Parliament from Hassan Lok Sabha constituency in 1991, he was instrumental in bringing the problems of the State – especially of farmers – to the forefront. He earned respect for his forthright espousal of the plight of farmers, in Parliament. He also earned a name for practising and upholding the prestige and dignity and Parliament and its institutions.
Shri Deve Gowda became the President of Janta party twice at State level and President of State Janata Dal in 1994. He was the driving force behind the Janata Dal’s rise to power in the State in 1994. He was elected as the leader of the Janata Dal Legislative Party and on December 11, 1994 he assumed office as the 14th Chief Minister of Karnataka. He then contested as a candidate from Ramanagar Assembly constituency and won by a thumping majority.
His prolonged experience in active politics and his strong base at the grassroots level enabled him to plunge straightway into the task of tackling many problems faced by the State. His political acumen was tested again when he brought the Idgah Maidan issue at Hubli to the forefront. It was a ground that belonged to the minority community and was the butt of political controversy. Shri Gowda successfully brought about a peaceful solution to the issue.
In January 1995, Shri Gowda toured Switzerland and attended the Forum of International Economists. His tours to European and Middle Eastern countries were a testimony to his achievements as a dedicated politician. His tour to Singapore, which brought in the much needed foreign investment to the State, proved his business acumen.
Since the 70s, friends as well as foes have been commenting on his singular pre-occupation with politics and its processes. His politics, says Shri Gowda, is the politics of the people and he is happy when he is surrounded by people and is doing something for them.
In 1989, his group of the Janata Party fared poorly in Karnataka winning just 2 of the 222 Assembly seats it contested; Shri Gowda himself tasting defeat for the first time in his career losing in both constituencies he contested. He is therefore, no stranger to the fickleness of political fortunes.
The defeat lent a sharper edge to his pursuit to regain lost honour and power, and spurred him to re-examine his own style of politics. He made friends in Karnataka and Delhi, and put aside his bitter feuds with political rivals. Shri Gowda is a person with a life style that is simple, a profile that is low, but assertive and effective.
Before his political initiation, Shri Gowda had been a contractor taking up minor works. The seven years that he spent as an Independent helped him observe party politics from outside. Ever a workaholic, he was always seen engrossed with books and periodicals in the legislature library. His re-election in 1967 gave him more confidence and in 1969 when the Congress split, he joined the Congress (O) headed by Shri Nijalingappa, which was in power in Karnataka then. But Shri Gowda’s big chance came after the rout of Congress (O) in the 1971 Lok Sabha elections. He emerged the leader of a truncated opposition hit by the Indira Gandhi wave.
Born to Shri Dodde Gowda and Smt. Devamma, Shri Deve Gowda is proud of his simple agricultural background. Married to Smt. Chennamma, the couple have four sons and two daughters. One of the sons is an MLA in Karnataka and another one was elected to the Lok Sabha.
The leadership of the Third Front (a group of regional parties and Non-Congress and Non-BJP combine) leading to Prime Ministership – came to Shri Gowda without him seriously aspiring for it.
Shri Deve Gowda resigned as the Chief Minister of Karnataka on May 30, 1996 to be sworn in as the 11th Prime Minister of India.