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Taking a swipe at Modi, Rahul said the PM’s “personal attacks” on him were unbecoming of a person holding a high office.
Rahul, who was addressing a rally in poll-bound Karnataka, said Modi was resorting to personal attacks as he had no answers to the issues raised by the Congress leader, such as the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal and fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi.
“Whenever Modi ji is afraid… 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,” Rahul said at a public gathering in Bidar.
The Gandhi scion, who has frequently been at the receiving end of Modi’s salvos at his rallies in Karnataka, said: “Let him speak anything about me, whether it is wrong or right, it will not make any difference. He is the PM of India and I will not launch a personal attack against him.”
Meanwhile in Kalaburagi, PM Modi resumed his campaign blitz and immediately targeted Rahul for “disrespecting” the national song ‘vande mataram’ recently during a rally in the state.
Playing the nationalism card, Modi accused the Congress of insulting the Indian Army by questioning the veracity of the 2016 surgical strikes against Pakistan, saying: “Congress would rather prefer our soldiers go with cameras and not guns! But then, this is expected considering how their own senior leader behaved on stage when ‘Vande Mataram’ was being sung.”
However, while Rahul said he would never speak disparagingly of the Prime Minister, he was free to ask him questions about pressing issues. He slammed Modi over the BJP giving tickets to controversial mining barons Reddy brothers in the assembly polls.
“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?” he demanded.
Bringing back the Gabbar Singh Tax (an allusion to GST) jibe, the Congress chief said Modi’s ‘war on corruption’ was a falsehood as he had given the green signal to graft-accused Reddy brothers and tainted former CM BS Yeddyurappa to contest the Karnataka election.
“You brought Gabbar Singh Tax 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…. Reddy brothers gang, which was in jail….You are trying to get them inducted into Assembly, and you tell to the country that you are fighting against corruption,” said Rahul in a caustic attack on PM Modi.
The Prime Minister, on his part, was pummelling the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in the state over a whole host of charges – from corruption and casteism to stalled growth.
“Look at the rising illegal mining in state. Congress government here couldn’t even frame a strong mining policy. Karnataka has a ‘Sidda-Rupaiah Sarkar’. It has created a debt-burden for the state,” Modi charged.
Later, at a second back-to-back rally in Ballari, the PM accused the ruling party of practising vote-bank politics to secure its electoral fortunes.
“Cong government in Karnataka is in ‘sleep mode.’ They didn’t spend funds Centre allocated for development of state. We wanted OBC Commission to get Constitutional status but they didn’t let it happen. They do vote-bank politics. They divide people on basis of caste,” said Modi, adding that the BJP-led Centre has taken numerous steps to further the welfare of the dalit and tribal communities.
Rejecting the Congress claim that it was a champion of dalit causes, Modi referred to the “atrocity” committed against a dalit girl in Karnataka’s Bidar. “But the state’s ruling party did not speak about it. They had no candlelight protests,” he said.