Bengaluru: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday attacked the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka over corruption, failing law and order and an increase in communal disharmony, among other charges as the state heads to polls, scheduled to be held later this year.

“In Karnataka, there is ‘ease of doing murder’," Modi said in Bengaluru on Sunday, in an apparent reference to the spate of murders that have taken place in recent months in coastal Karnataka and Bengaluru among other places. The Prime Minister said that the Congress was standing at the exit gate and would be thrown out of power later this year, owing to multiple corruption charges and failing law and order.

Modi said that the Karnataka government was notoriously known as “10% government" where no work or project could take off without paying a commission to the Congress. Modi accused the Congress of being involved in multiple scams including buildings, transfers, sand and the now defunct Rs1,791 crore steel flyover among other issues.

Modi kick-started the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) election campaign in Karnataka, which has gained momentum in recent weeks as both national parties have targeted each other.

“Thanks for the welcome CM @siddaramaiah avare! Yes. Karnataka indeed has scripted several firsts - No.1 Corrupt State, 3,500+ farmer suicides, collapse of law & order, mysterious deaths of officers, transfers of honest officials, crumbling infra of Bengaluru. #KarnatakaTrustsModi," B.S.Yeddyurappa said while responding to a tweet by Siddaramaiah welcoming Modi, earlier in the day.

Siddaramaiah hit back.

“Says a man who presided over India’s biggest mining scam during his rule. Only a person totally lacking in #KannadaSwabhimana can call Karnataka, one of the most progressive states in India, No. 1 Corrupt State," Siddaramaiah tweeted.

Modi’s visit to Bengaluru comes a week before Congress president Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to visit the state. Both parties are taking no chances with Karnataka—one of the last big states still under Congress rule and stands in the way of BJP’s agenda of Congress-free India.

Karnataka BJP president B.S. Yeddyurappa carried out a 75-day (extended to 84 days) “Parivarthana Yatra" across all 224 constituencies of the state to mobilize support and avoid a repeat of its 2013 poll debacle where it was reduced to 40 seats from 110 in 2008.

Modi, during his hour-long speech, stressed on the achievements of the three-and-half-year government at the centre including recent provisions like Ayushman Bharat—a universal healthcare scheme proposal—to seek support from the state’s voters.

Yeddyurappa had, in an earlier interview to Mint, said that Modi’s rule in the centre, the five-year rule of the BJP in Karnataka (2008-2013) and the failures of the Siddaramaiah government would be its poll plank. Modi did not make a single reference to the BJP’s five-year rule in Karnataka that saw three chief ministers take turns to rule the state, saddled with multiple corruption allegations including the illegal mining issue.

However, Modi did not make any mention of Mahadayi (also known as Mandovi) river water sharing issue that has pushed BJP back on the defensive. Pro-Kannada parties had observed a bandh on 25 January and had proposed a bandh on Sunday to coincide with the Prime Minister’s visit seeking his intervention in the Mahadayi river water sharing issue between Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.

The BJP had tried to champion the issue of Mahadayi, but the sensitive issue backfired.

The BJP deployed all its star campaigners such as its national president Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. Modi also backed Yeddyurappa’s assurance of sanctioning Rs1 trillion for irrigation projects to among other programmes to resolve the agrarian crisis.

Harish Ramaswamy, a political analyst and professor at the Karnatak University, Dharwad, said that there was not much that Modi had in his speech to offer for the state including skirting the Mahadayi river water sharing issue that has sparked widespread protests.

He said that even Modi’s speech lacked the passion that was visible in his campaigns in Gujarat. He added that Modi had stressed on the achievements of his own government and picked on the failures of the Siddaramaiah rule but said nothing on the five years of BJP rule in the state.

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