On Karnataka poll trail, Rahul Gandhi steps up attacks on Narendra Modi and BJP
Bengaluru: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday continued his attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on corruption, farm loan waiver, job creation and welfare of backward classes.
Gandhi, as part of the Jana Aashirvada Yatra, toured Koppal and Raichur districts, where he visited temples, addressed public rallies and met with farmer union representatives. Gandhi said that Modi was willing to waive of lakhs of crores of rupees in corporate loans but had not offered to do the same for suffering farmers.
The first of four such scheduled visits to the state before election campaigning kicks into gear, Gandhi, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah and the entire state unit of the Congress have been carrying out extensive outreach and campaign programmes to mobilize support to help the party retain power in the state—a feat not achieved for decades by any party.
Stepping up his attack on the BJP, Gandhi said while the Siddaramaiah government had a scam-free record, the BJP had broken “world record” in graft in Karnataka.
“In the last five years there was not even a single scam, and during their (BJP) time there were scams one after the other, from mining to what not—different scams,” he said at a meeting in Koppal district.
Pointing out that the previous BJP government had seen three chief ministers, he said four ministers had gone to jail and had to resign. “But still Modiji comes here and speaks about corruption against us,” he said.
Gandhi’s attacks on Modi on national issues as well as local ones in the run-up to the Karnataka assembly elections are aimed not just at retaining power in the state but also to mobilize support for next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
The 2018 assembly election results in Karnataka, one of the last few states still under Congress rule, is likely to also serve as an indicator as to which way the vote is likely to swing in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Gandhi’s itinerary in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region included visits to religious places like the Huligemma Temple, Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple and Gavi Siddeshwara Mutt among other places on Saturday. He is also scheduled to visit Khwaja Bande Nawaz Dargah as well as Anubhava Mantapa, a religious parliament started by 12th century reformer Basavanna, who found a mention in Modi’s speech in the Rajya Sabha last week.
Both parties have tried to claim the legacy of Basavanna, who propagated a casteless and egalitarian society, and accused the other of corruption, inefficiency, dividing the society and fanning communal tensions among others. BJP have hit back at every comment made by the Congress.
“Dear @OfficeOfRG, farmers kept committing suicides in Karnataka over the last 5 years and you were no where to be seen. But today with elections just round the corner, you are meeting a few farmers only as a PR event. Aren’t you ashamed? #RahulMustAnswer #CongressKilledFarmers,” the state unit of the BJP said on Twitter on Sunday.
The Congress is banking on the over Rs4,000 crore spent on the region under Article 371 (J) that gives Hyderabad-Karnataka special status. The party claims that the funds have been used to create jobs, build infrastructure and provide educational opportunities in the region. The Hyderabad-Karnataka region, home to some of the most economically backward parts, accounts for around 23% of the state’s total area and is home to the second largest arid region in the country after Rajasthan. It is also home to 24% of the state’s scheduled caste population—one of the key support groups for the Congress.
North Karnataka, which couldn’t be more different from the southern part of the state for its greater prosperity, is also home to a large Lingayat population.
Heading into elections, Congress and the BJP are leaving little to chance to woo influential communities like the Lingayats and Vokkaligas. The Congress in Karnataka tried to fragment the Lingayat vote, that has largely sided with the BJP and former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa in the past, by raking up a decades-old demand for a separate religion and separation from the Veerashaiva (a sub-sect within the Lingayats), splitting the community, spiritual heads and its political leaders.
Hyderabad-Karnataka accounts for 44 of the 224 assembly seats in the state. Of the total, Congress won 27, the BJP 5, Janata Dal (Secular) 5, Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) 3 and Badavara Shramikara Raitara Congress Party (BSRCP) 3 in the 2013 assembly elections. KJP and BSRCP have since merged with the BJP.