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Modi discovers 'respect' for Deve Gowda

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, BS Yeddyurappa, at a Karnataka election rally at Chamarajanagar on Tuesday. (PTI) 

Bangalore: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday sang paeans to H.D. Deve Gowda, the Janata Dal Secular patriarch and influential Vokkaliga leader, four years after offering the shelter of an old-age home to him.

Just a day after former Prime Minister Gowda, whose party is eyeing victory in the May 12 Karnataka elections, declared he would disown his son if he struck a post-poll alliance with the BJP, Modi praised the veteran leader and chided Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who had earlier called the JDS the "B team" of the BJP.

"I heard that the Congress president criticised the respected Deve Gowdaji at an election rally 15-20 days ago. Is that your culture?" Modi said, seemingly directing the question at Rahul. "Such arrogance. You are starting your political life and Deve Gowdaji is one of the greatest leaders of our country," Modi told a BJP rally in Udupi, Karnataka.

Back in April 2014, when the BJP was campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, Modi had courted controversy by offering to put Deve Gowda in an old-age home.

The Prime Minister's remark was in reaction to Deve Gowda's statement that he would take political sanyas and quit Karnataka if the BJP won the Lok Sabha elections.

Modi had said in response: "If you want to stay in an old-age home, if you want a home, or stay in a farm house with me, I will serve you more than your son."

Four years later, the tone and tenor have changed. "There will be differences in politics, but there are certain etiquettes in public life," Modi said on Tuesday.

"I meet our former Prime Minister, Shriman Deve Gowdaji, whenever he comes to Delhi and seeks my time. That's not all. When he visits my home, I always go to his car to open the door to welcome him. And when he leaves, I go to the car to see him off," Modi said.

"Politically he is our opponent, he criticises me and votes against us in Parliament. But Deve Gowdaji is among the greatest leaders and I have no right to forget that," he added in Hindi.

The Vokkaligas, who overwhelmingly support the JDS, make up 11 per cent of the Karnataka voters.

The JDS is contesting the Assembly elections in an alliance with Mayawati's BSP, which the Karnataka party hopes will be able to corner a substantial portion of the state's 24 per cent Dalit votes.

With some opinion polls predicting a fractured mandate in the May 12 polls, political pundits are closely observing what trajectory the JDS takes.

Both Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy have been denying the possibility of an alliance with either the Congress or the BJP.

The Prime Minister urged the people of Karnataka to "fulfil the dream" of Mahatma Gandhi, who "wanted to disband the Congress".

"Such a dangerous party and such people are a big risk to democracy," Modi said.

Chief minister P.C. Siddaramaiah lost no time in attacking Modi for his changed perception of Deve Gowda. "Before the Lok Sabha polls Modi wanted Deve Gowda to go to an old-age home. Now he is singing paeans. It is clear that the BJP and the JDS are working out an alliance," the Congress veteran said.

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