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BJP, Congress face off on last day of campaigning

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NEW DELHI: Campaigning for the high-stakes Karnataka assembly election came to a close on Thursday evening, with main players Congress and the BJP fielding their big guns for a final round of wooing voters before the state goes to polls on May 12.

The day began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP’s star campaigner, who interacted with the SC/ST, OBC, Minority and Slum Morchas of the party’s Karnataka unit through the Narendra Modi App. Hitting out at the Congress over its vote-bank politics, Modi claimed the Grand Old Party had done nothing for the betterment of dalits and marginalized communities.

“There is no place for dalits in the heart of the Congress. This has been continuing for last many decades. Even the Congress has no respect for Ambedkar. They did not even confer the Bharat Ratna on him. It was only when Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ji formed the government that Babasaheb was conferred the title,” PM Modi said.

He further alleged that Congress had repeatedly stonewalled attempts to grant the OBC Commission a constitutional status in Parliament as it did not care about empowering the weaker sections.

“You will be surprised to know that during the Congress regime, OBC leaders used to demand a constitutional status to OBC Commission but they (Congress) never cared. They only remain involved in vote bank politics… To stop the OBC Commission getting constitutional status, they did not allow the Parliament to function,” he said.

Firing back at the BJP was Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who wrapped up his extensive campaign tour of Karnataka with a press conference wherein he claimed that PM Modi felt threatened by him and therefore resorted to personal attacks, like the one on his prime ministerial ambitions.

“Modi has anger inside him and he has got anger for everybody, not only for me. I attract that anger because he sees a threat in me. When he can’t respond, he distracts and creates anger,” he said.

Elaborating on the subject of distraction, Rahul said Modi was seeking to divert the public’s attention from the real issues in Karnataka as he had no real talking points besides empty promises.

“He (Modi) has nothing to say to the people of Karnataka as he has nothing to offer for their future. Modi waived loans of Rs 2.5 lakh crore of his industrialist friends, but didn’t care for farmers. Our government in the state waived Rs 8,000 crore farm loans but the Modi government didn’t contribute a rupee to it. Modi is disrespecting the state’s youths by not talking about the jobs he promised and instead taking to personal attacks,” he charged.

The Gandhi scion flayed the prime minister for his “silence” on incidents of killing of dalits and attacks on them. He further stated rape cases to be a political issue of national significance and his party would continue to raise them.

An emotional Rahul also defended his mother Sonia Gandhi against PM Modi’s snide dig at her Italian roots and the opposition’s frequent allusions to her foreign origin.

“My mother is an Italian. She has lived the larger part of her life in India. She is more Indian than many, many Indians I have seen. She has sacrificed her life for the country, she has suffered for the country. When Modi makes such comments, it shows the quality of the man,” he said.

Rahul’s barrage of salvos against PM Modi was countered by BJP president Amit Shah, who pinned the ‘fake’ voter ID cards controversy on the Congress and alleged the party was resorting to underhand means to retain its hold over Karnataka.

“Congress is trying to win elections with undemocratic ways. Recovery of Voter ID cards in Rajarajeshwari Nagar shows how desperately Cong wants to win the election. I want to alert those whose fake IDs have been made, that don’t fall in Congress’ trap and disturb polls,” said Shah at a press briefing.

Exuding confidence about the BJP’s chances of forming a government on its own, Shah claimed the party would win at least 130 seats in the 224-member assembly and there was no need to take any party’s support.

A total of 2,655 candidates are in the fray for the 224-member Karnataka Legislative Assembly. A single phase polling will be held on May 12 in 223 constituencies, including 36 reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and 15 for Scheduled Tribes (STs), though election will be countermanded in the Jayanagar seat due to death of the BJP candidate. Votes will be counted on May 15.

Updated: May 10, 2018 — 5:46 pm

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