D. Devaraj Urs
1915 – 1982
Who was D. Devaraj Urs?
D. Devaraj Urs was an Indian politician who served two terms as the 8th Chief Minister of Karnataka, a state in southern India. An Indian National Congress party leader from Mysore, Urs was a member of the intra-party "Syndicate" of powerful regional leaders. However he was never as antagonistic towards Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as other leaders of the Syndicate, such as K. Kamaraj. He is particularly remembered for his reforms that targeted the depressed classes of Karnatka, namely the scheduled castes and the other backward castes.
Urs had practically retired from politics when the first Congress split took place in 1969, and the Syndicate formed the Congress while Indira Gandhi formed the Congress. The Congress, under S. Nijalingappa, Veerendra Patil, Ramakrishna Hegde and Deve Gowda dominated Karnataka electorally and had a majority in the state assembly, but Urs declined an invitation to join it. Instead, he agreed to lead the Congress in the state and successfully won the state for Indira Gandhi in 1971.
In response to the prime minister's declaration that poverty was her first priority and her Twenty-Point Programme, Urs 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 hold of the previously dominant Lingayat and Vokkaliga castes over local politics. He was helped in his endeavours by his son-in-law M. D. Nataraj.
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