Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda visited Jammu and Kashmir several times during his 10-month tenure, but his second visit to the erstwhile state in August 1996 came despite objections by the security establishment as he wanted to instil confidence among the people, National Conference chairman Farooq Abdullah said on Monday.
Abdullah was speaking at the launch of Deve Gowda’s biography, Furrows In A Field: The Unexplored Life of HD Deve Gowda, by journalist Sugata Srinivasaraju. Also present were veteran constitutional jurist and Senior Advocate Fali Nariman, senior Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
Deve Gowda was present in the audience but did not speak.
Abdullah, who was the J&K chief minister during Deve Gowda’s term, narrated his experience.
“We had to inaugurate the Uri hydel project..300 MW project.. And they [the SPG] thought the Prime Minister’s life was at stake… His minister rang me. He said the Prime Minister cannot come… I said then you are giving this thing to our neighbours that Kashmir is not part of India… And I have no right to be the Chief Minister of this state if the Prime Minister of India is afraid to come,” Abdullah said.
“He [Gowda] spoke at 12 at night. And said I am going to come… We went, inaugurated the power project and went on to address the people of Uri just near the border… The crowd was elated that the Prime Minister of India in these most difficult times had arrived,” he added.
Abdullah recalled that Deve Gowda drove in an open jeep from Rajouri airport to the town with the Army’s Lt Gen Dhillon. “From there we went to Rajouri… the general drove him. I also drove him in an open jeep in Rajouri…very close to the border. You can understand how SPG was shivering in their pants. But I drove him, went to a meeting, a huge meeting… and he assured them that India will look after them. Their problems will be solved. Be assured. Tragedy… he did not last long for prime ministership,” he said.
Yechury recalled that Deve Gowda was reluctant to take over as the Prime Minister but was hands-on during his tenure. The CPI(M) leader said Gowda had not even completed three years as the Karnataka chief minister when his name was proposed for the Prime Minister’s post.
“And I recall him telling [former West Bengal chief minister] Jyoti Basu when Basu said that you should do this job…he said ‘sir, I want to be like you — the longest serving chief minister in India. And not come here as the prime minister. I won’t be allowed to last long because of the Congress support and therefore once I got back as the Prime Minister having not served my full term as prime minister… whatever be the circumstances… I cannot go back as the Chief Minister again,” Yechury said.