Bengaluru: Sharing the stage with a brother and a close aide of controversial iron ore miner Gali Janardhana Reddy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday accused the ruling Congress party of bringing disrepute to Ballari city—the seat of the eponymous mining district —and of distributing tickets to people accused of illegal mining.

Seated with Modi on the dias were G. Somashekara Reddy and B.Sriramulu, brother and close aide of Janardhana Reddy, the alleged kingpin of the illegal iron ore mining scam that led to irreparable environmental degradation of the region and cost the state exchequer thousands of crores of rupees in losses.

“A Congress leader, who has been accused in the mining scam and was supposed to go to jail for his actions has been given a ticket by this government," Modi said in Ballari city, the constituency from where Somashekara Reddy is standing as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate in the 12 May Karnataka assembly elections.

Modi said the Congress brought disrepute to Ballari by portraying it as the home of “thieves and robbers".

Modi’s statement comes after days of Congress attacks on the BJP for distributing tickets to the aides of Janardhana Reddy.

Ballari is just 50km from Molakalmuru constituency where Janardhana Reddy has been campaigining for his friend B.Sriramulu, a BJP candidate.

Although Janardhana Reddy himself is not contesting the polls, many of his aides, including his brothers, have been given BJP tickets.

Sriramulu is fighting from two seats, one of which is Badami, where the contest is against Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah.

“In five years, the Karnataka government has not been able to make one mining policy to reallocate mines. They (Congress) did the sham of a padayatra and then forgot about it," Modi said, referring to the padayatra carried out by the Congress from Bengaluru to Ballari, which eventually led to the fall of then chief minister B. S. Yeddyurappa and then the BJP government itself.

The Congress and the BJP, considered the two main contenders in the upcoming polls, have been accusing each other of corruption, inefficiency, dividing the society and using communities as vote banks.

“In Bellary you are asking for vote for a candidate who is the brother of the mining mafia kingpin G. Janardhana Reddy who brought shame to Bellry & the state. And you say Congress has insulted Bellary. Pray, how?" Siddaramaiah said on Twitter on Thursday, adding in Kannada that there should be a limit to lying, with the hashtag #ModiHitWicket.

The Congress took on the BJP when the party started doling out tickets to aides of Janardhana Reddy in successive candidate lists.

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