Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday launched a frontal attack against Congress, its chief Rahul Gandhi and chief minister S Siddaramaiah, and asked people in Karnataka to evict it from the state and finish the job of making India Congress-mukt.
In the slog overs of Indian Political League (IPL) Karnataka edition, so to speak, the BJP’s pinch hitter arrived on the pitch and began an aggressive belting of the Congress and its leaders on the last leg of the BJP’s campaign to dislodge the Congress government in the state.
Modi arrived in Karnataka on Tuesday and addressed three rallies – at Chamrajangar in Mysuru, Udipi and at Chikkodi in Belagavi – and will spend the next five days criss-crossing the state, whipping up support for his party and chief ministerial candidate YS YeddyurappaIncidentally, Yedyurappa was at hand when Modi launched his Karnataka campaign from Santhemarahalli town of Chamrajanagar district with broad swipes against Rahul Gandhi, making fun of his mental abilities and political acumen. Of course, the PM chose to use the occasion to sell Yeddyurappa as the party’s chief minister under whom the state will sprint ahead in progress and growth.
“It is not a BJP wave in Karnataka but it is a BJP storm,” Modi said, adding “there is an Andhi that will sweep Karnataka and oust the Congress from the state.”
Modi challenged Rahul Gandhi to speak for 15 minutes without the help of any notes and prompting on the achievements of his own government in Karnataka and of the UPA. You can speak extempore in any language of your choice, including your mother tongue (Italian), Modi said, adding if Rahul Gandhi managed to do that, it would be a great achievement.
“I challenge you (Rahul Gandhi) to speak for 15 minutes on the achievements of your government in Karnataka without reading from any piece of paper. You can speak in Hindi, English or your mother tongue,” he said.
“If he can speak for 15 minutes, it will be a big thing,” Modi said, highlighting the gaffes made by the young leader. And let him pronounce the name of Visveswarayya five or six times in his speech, and then people will realise what he is made of, the prime minister said without mincing his words against the Congress president.
The prime minister’s campaign themes were clear – all-out frontal attack against Congress and drill home the point that the Congress was corrupt and was running a corrupt regime, a regime under which there was “ease of doing murder” and there was a collapse of law and order machinery. Development was clogged under the Congress regime, Modi reiterated and tried to contrast it with his own achievements – total electrification of India, something that the previous prime minister Manmohan Singh promised but could not do.
“The Congress made several false promises but could not deliver,” Modi said, adding that “it was waiting for Modi to perform.”
Then he turned his attention to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and said that he was presiding over a corrupt regime (a 10 per cent commission government) and because of his failures was now running around for cover and fighting the elections from two constituencies. “He is running helter skelter,” Modi said in his now patented dramatic drawl and nasal tone that he deploys to highlight a point.
On the whole, an attempt to discredit the Congress government and its leadership and paint a picture that the BJP was knocking on the doors of power in the state. Going by the response of the crowds that thronged the rally venues, Modi seemed to have scored a hit, as always.
Modi pulled out his vintage form and content that regaled the audiences and held them spell bound, even though his speeches were delivered in Hindi. Kannada translation was accompanied for the benefit of the masses who turned up to listen to Modi.
Modi’s jibe of 2+1 against Siddaramaiah for contesting in two seats had instant reaction from the chief minister himself.
“Was the PM running scared when he contested from two constituencies?” the CM questioned within minutes of the campaign speech of the prime minister.
"Was it fear that drove you to contest from two parliamentary constituencies Varanasi and Vadodara PM Narendra Modi? Of course, you are a 56-inch man, you would have some clever explanation! Forget 2 seats, Sir. Worry about the fact that your party will not cross 60-70!" tweeted Siddaramaiah within minutes of Modi’s speech. Siddaramaiah’s tweet was in response to Modi’s statement that "I was reading the papers and saw a 2+1 formula in Karnataka. This is a version of family politics in Karnataka."
On the charge of Congress leaders preferring dynasty politics, a senior Congress leader hit out, saying that all the prime ministers in the past were elected by people and the PM’s comments were an insult to the voters of India who chose to vote for the Congress.
And then Siddaramaiah hit back at the BJP and the prime minister with his own 2+1 comment – Two Reddys for one Yeddy – (referring to the controversial Bellary brothers and Yeddyurappa who himself faced serious corruption charges and had spent some time in jail over the charges. He was later exonerated by the courts.
The prime minister’s campaign and the immediate counter attack from the Congress promise to heat up the electioneering several notches high in the scorching summer heat that grips Karnataka.
Campaigning for the 224-seat Karnataka assembly polls will end on May 10 and polling held on May 12. Counting of votes will be taken up on May 15.