D Devaraj Urs

D. Devaraj Urs

D. Devaraj Urs

Date of Birth : 1915
Date Of Death : 1982

Mini Biography :

D. Devaraj Urs (1915 -1982) dominated Karnataka politics for many years and was twice Chief Minister of the state. Originally from Mysore, he was a member of what came to be known as the ‘Syndicate’ of powerful regional leaders, though he never went as far as, for example, Kamaraj, in opposition to Indira Gandhi. He is particularly remembered for his reforms that targeted the scheduled castes and the OBCs of Karnataka, and for his constant pipe-smoking.

Urs had practically retired from politics when the first Congress split took place in 1969, and the Syndicate formed the Congress (O) while Mrs. Gandhi formed the Congress (I). The Congress (O), under S. Nijalingappa, Veerendra Patil, Ramakrishna Hegde and Deve Gowda dominated Karnataka electorally and had a majority in the state assembly, but Urs declined the invitation to join it. Instead, he agreed to lead the Congress (I) in the state and successfully won the state for Mrs. Gandhi in 1971.

In response to Mrs. Gandhi’s declaration that poverty was her first priority (Garibi Hatao) and her Twenty-Point Programme, he formed a state Cabinet dominated by technocrats and academics. His first priority was land reform, and his slogan was “land to the tiller”; under him a sustained effort was made to equalize the land distribution through much of the state. Karnataka, thus, other than the Communist bastions of Kerala and West Bengal, has had one of the most successful land redistributions in the country. A side effect of this was to break the power of the Lingayats and Vokkaligas, the previously dominant castes, over local politics.

Other schemes included the building of shelters for migrant workers; the forgiveness of rural debt; and, in a populist masterstroke, a plan to have an electric bulb in every house. When R. K. Baliga, Founder of the Electronics City proposed the concept of developing the electronic city in the early 1970s it was met with skepticism but Devaraj Urs supported him and approved the project. This initial seed investment by the Karnataka State Government in 1976 laid the foundation for the Electronics City.

In 1978, however, he exited the Congress (I), which had crashed out of power. He had quarreled with Indira Gandhi, and was appearing before the Supreme Court in Karnataka vs. Union of India, and thus felt the time was right to cut his losses and leave the Congress. This was a miscalculation; although many legislators in Karnataka, Kerala and Goa went with him – such as A.K. Antony, Sharad Pawar, Priyaranjan Das Munshi and K.P. Unnikrishnan. Mrs. Gandhi swept back to power at the national level and the fledgling Congress (Urs) was routed. Urs subsequently joined the Janata Party, and his protege Ramakrishna Hegde recaptured power in Karnataka from the Congress in 1984. The Congress (Urs) itself became part of the Congress (S) in 1983.

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