South bias earned HD Deve Gowda the ire of North Karnataka

Bengaluru: The demand for a separate state of North Karnataka is not new and has a history of over 20 years. Be it the setting up of a zonal headquarters of South Western Railway in Hubballi or a bench of the High Court in the twin cities of Hubballi-Dharwad, people were able to achieve their objectives only after a sustained agitation.

As far as the railway zonal headquarters is concerned, it was a long drawn battle with people of Hubballi and Dharwad hitting the streets for days together to get their demand fulfilled. Their demand for a separate zonal headquarters was genuine as they had to go to Hyderabad-the zonal headquarters of South Central Railway for everything. This triggered the launch of an agitation for a separate railway zone with its headquarters in Hubballi. 

The demand got a shot in arm when the then State Janata Dal President H.D. Deve Gowda not only supported the cause but also vowed to fight for it tooth and nail. He was forced to make a commitment as his party then had a strong base in North Karnataka region and had sent a number of legislators to the  Assembly.
However, after he became CM, Mr Gowda forgot his promise made to the people of the twin cities and remained evasive on the issue. The people had a lot of hope when Mr Gowda became the prime minister and felt that their demand would be fulfilled. However, Mr Gowda not only took U-turn but also favoured setting up of the zonal headquarters in Bengaluru instead of Hubballi on the ground that the latter did not have infrastructure to handle railway traffic. 

This angered the people of the twin cities who launched agitation against Mr Gowda. Hubballi observed a total bandh when Mr Gowda went there to inaugurate a broad gauge line. The BJP spearheaded a campaign against Mr Gowda dubbing him 'anti-North Karnataka'. Incidents of torching of vehicles and lathicharge marked the then PM's maiden visit to Hubballi. 

Hundreds of agitators were arrested and the people of Hubballi unitedly shown their strength by closing down the important trade centre of north Karnataka. In fact, the JD paid a heavy price for opposing the proposal for the railway zonal headquarters in Hubballi-Dharwad in subsequent elections as it lost its base in the region.

Mr Lingaraj Patil of the BJP  recalled how the city responded to the bandh call on then PM Deve Gowda's maiden visit to Hubballi with all shops remaining closed. Since people had an emotional attachment to the issue, they supported the cause blaming Mr Gowda for playing 'politics over development'. 

BJP leaders left no stone unturned to make it a political issue and  expose Mr Gowda's 'anti-N-K region' stance. “The police arrested our party activists and beat them up badly for agitating during the PM's visit. But nothing prevented them from giving a call for a bandh which received a tremendous response. Had we not protested, the headquarters would have been in Bengaluru."

The long cherished dream of a new zonal headquarters in Hubballi came true when Vajpayee became PM. But, he could not formally inaugurate the headquarters after a few people (said to be followers of Gowda) got a stay order. As a result, Mr Vajpayee's function was altered and he laid the foundation for the Hubballi-Ankola railway line.

Subsequently, the Vajpayee government got the stay order cleared to ensure the establishment of the new zonal headquarters in Hubballi with the divisional offices in Bengaluru and Mysuru. Though, Mr Gowda is still trying to prove that he was not against North Karnataka’s development, people find it hard to believe him after all that happened when he was PM. The results of the recently-held Assembly elections clearly indicate that the resentment of people of the region against Mr Gowda and his party remains unchanged.

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Note from Kannada.Club :

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