Bengaluru: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi both were in battleground Karnataka on Thursday, crossing swords over a plethora of issues including corruption, days before the state goes to polls.
Seeking to give an adrenaline boost to the BJP’s campaign to wrest the state from the Congress and form its government for a second time, Modi addressed three election meetings and Gandhi four during their whirlwind trip.
The Karnataka government is a “gold medalist” in corruption and Congress leaders are “drunk on power”, Modi told a public meeting in state capital Bengaluru.
Gandhi hit right back, accusing the BJP of corruption in Rafale fighter jet deal and protecting fugitive diamantiare Nirav Modi, while questioning the prime minister’s “silence”.
Dubbing the Siddaramaiah government as “seedha rupaiah government” (corrupt), a punning allusion to the chief minister’s name, Modi said an ordinary man cannot get done any work without bribing officials. “Because of this seedha rupaiah government Karnataka is immersed in debt,” he told an election rally in Ballari.
Addressing a rally in Bengaluru, he called the Siddaramaiah government a “gold medalist in corruption where there is competition between departments and ministers over who is more corrupt.”
“There is lawlessness in the city not because of nothing. A Congress MLA’s son beats up innocent people and the government protects him…their leaders are drunk on power,” he said, referring to lawmaker N A Haris’ son Mohammad Nalapad, who beat up a man at a cafe in Bengaluru some time back.
In the line of Congress fire over the BJP granting party tickets to Reddy brothers, accused of involvement in a humongous illegal iron ore mining scam, the prime minister hit back.
“This Karnataka government frustrated all attempts by the Centre to stop illegal mining in Ballari….to allow auction of mining blocks. But the Siddaramaiah government failed to formulate a mining policy in five years,” he told an election rally in Ballari.
Seeking to turn the tables on the Congress for its criticism of the BJP over Reddy brothers, Modi said,”The honesty of Ballari is being insulted…as if only thieves and looters live in Ballari.”
The prime minister said it was the nature of the Congress to play vote bank politics.
“It is an anti-Dalit, anti-Adivasi, anti-OBC party.
When we wanted to accord constitutional status to the OBC commission, it blocked our move,” he said.
Gandhi, who addressed election rallies in Aurad, Bhaki, Humnabad and Bidar, slammed Modi for personal attacks against him.
“Whenever Modi is afraid….I would tell you about Modi’s character….he launches a personal attack on a person.
He will talk ill of a person, will talk wrong of a person.
That is the difference between me and him,” Gandhi said.
Gandhi, however, said whether the attacks on him were right or wrong, he would not make any personal attack on Modi because he was the prime minister.
“I will not attack him personally however much insolent his attacks are. But I will ask questions. I am a soldier of the Congress not an RSS man who spreads hatred.
“He should answer my question how will he ensure that the farmers get minimum support price (MSP). How will he tackle unemployment which is highest in eight years? But he will not answer these questions. Since he has nothing to talk about farmers, unemployment, corruption and women’s safety, he speaks about me and Mallikarjun Kharge,” he said.
“We will defeat BJP with love,” he said.
Gandhi also slammed Modi over the BJP giving tickets to controversial mining barons Reddy brothers.
“In film Sholay, there was Gabbar Singh. You brought Gabbar Singh Tax (an allusion to GST) but this time you have gone even further. You have fielded the entire gang of Gabbar Singh.
There is Gabbar, Sambha, Kalia, and all of them….
the Reddy brothers gang, which was in jail….You are trying to get them inducted into Assembly, and you tell the country that you are fighting against corruption,” he said.
Gandhi said Modi can criticise him as much as he wants, but must answer his questions.
Are you not trying to induct the Reddy brothers into the Assembly? Yes or no. Nirav Modi ran off with Rs 30,000 crore. What have you done on that front? Why was your mouth shut?
“In Rafale (deal), you snatched contract from (public sector) HAL. The Aircraft which was to cost Rs 700 crore, you bought for Rs 1500 crore. You snatched jobs from youths, and while doing this you gave the contract to your friend. You don’t talk about this too,” he said.
He also referred to the rape and murder of an eight- year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir and another such incident in Uttar Pradesh.
“Your words are hollow, you make false promises. Girls are being raped in Kashmir….what your MLA says in UP after a rape incident….Dalits and Muslims are being attacked….
Speak up Modi ji (kuchh to boliye),” Gandhi said.