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Pillar of anti-Congress movement

By A. Jayaram



Ramakrishna Hegde with Indira Gandhi and S. Nijalingappa (right).

BANGALORE, JAN. 12. Commitment to value-based politics and administrative decentralisation are the legacies of Ramakrishna Hegde, who died here today.

He had attributed the growing corruption in the Government to its overexpansion. The credit for setting up the institution of Lokayukta in State (1984) goes to Mr. Hegde, who was then heading the first non-Congress Government. Unlike the various Lok Pal Bills thought of or introduced by the Centre, the Lokayukta Act adopted by his Government had brought under the purview of the anti-corruption authority the Chief Minister and his ministers.

Mr. Hegde set a record by ordering a judicial inquiry with regard to an allegation against his son, Bharat. Justice Parameshwar Dayal, a retired judge of the Allahabad High Court, had gone into the MD seat scandal involving Mr. Bharat Hegde. A legislature committee came to be appointed to probe the allegation of smuggling rice against a cousin of his, Ganesh Hegde. The then Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, S. Bangarappa, had levelled the allegation.

However, another action of Mr. Hegde was to lead to a rupture of ties with his then senior Cabinet colleague, the former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda. Mr. Hegde ordered a Corps of Detectives investigation into certain charges levelled by a BJP MLC, B.B. Shivappa. It resulted in Mr. Gowda parting ways with Mr. Hegde. In 1988, Mr. Hegde permitted the CBI to investigate the involvement of his Home Minister, R.L. Jalappa (now Congress MP) in the advocate Rasheed murder case. Mr. Jalappa came to be arrested by the CBI although he was later absolved by the court.

In February 1986, Mr. Hegde had resigned as chief minister following the adverse verdict of the Karnataka High Court in the Liquor Bottling case.

He withdraw the resignation following pressure from his party legislators. Mr. Hegde's resignation as chief minister came on August 10, 1988, when he accepted moral responsibility for the tapping of telephones of prominent politicians of the State by the State Intelligence. It was the transcript of a telephone conversation between Mr. Deve Gowda and the former Union minister, Ajit Singh, published in a newspaper, which led to his exit.

It was Mr. Hegde who made the moves to bring together the non-Congress and non-BJP political parties.

He launched the Janata Dal in October 1988 through the merger of the Janata Party and the Lok Dal.

It was another thing that even today, the merger of the JD parties is only being talked of. Mr. Hegde himself came to be expelled from the Janata Dal in June 1996 and he had launched the Navanirmana Vedike.

An advocate of greater powers for the States vis-a-vis the Centre and implementation of the report of the Justice Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State relations, Mr. Hegde had even formed a council of chief ministers of Southern States. To reintroduce Panchayat Raj in the State, Mr. Hegde had brought in the former Union minister, S.K. Dey.

Although belonging to a family steeped in the Congress culture, Mr. Hegde was to emerge as a pillar of the anti-Congress movement in the State. The movement had been founded earlier by outstanding parliamentarians and leaders such as J.M. Imam, S.Gopala Gowda, and J.B. Mallaradhya. It was in the fitness of things that he became the first non-Congress Chief Minister of Karnataka. He never looked back on the Congress after he swore his loyalty to S. Nijalingappa and the Congress (Organisation) in 1969. However, he had revealed that as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had asked him to rejoin the Congress promising positions. His long-time comrade, Veerendra Patil, rejoined the Congress in 1979 but not Mr. Hegde. In recent months there was the talk that Mr. Hegde had softened towards the Congress. His "blessings" bestowed on the industrialist and Janata Party MP, Vijay Mallya, has intrigued even his close supporters.

One of the weak points in Mr. Hegde's political career was his inability to build up or nurse a parliamentary constituency of his own.

In a way he was a victim of the Nijalingappa-B.D.Jatti conflict in the Congress in the late Fifties. His home constituency, Sirsi, came to be declared as a reserved constituency and Mr. Hegde had to shift to Haliyal to get elected to the State Assembly. He lost the 1977 Lok Sabha elections from Canara and later from Bagalkot in 1991.

An able administrator, Mr. Hegde is better known as Finance Minister of Karnataka. He had the record of presenting 13 State budgets.

His first Government (1983-85) was a trendsetter in many ways though it was depending on the support of the BJP from outside.

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