Agencies: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has just kicked off his whirlwind tour of Karnataka, challenged Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday to speak for 15 minutes about the achievements of Siddaramaiah government without reading out from a piece of paper. The Congress hit back at the PM within minutes, but the reply did not come from Rahul Gandhi.
It was chief minister Siddaramaiah who slammed Modi in a series of tweets, challenging the PM to join a debate with him. The next day he even asked Modi to talk about the achievements of the previous Yeddyurappa government for 15 minutes looking at a piece of paper, which was hailed by the Congress as a masterstroke.
It seems the BJP is trying hard to make this election campaign a Modi versus Rahul Gandhi fight because the PM has been attacking Congress president and his predecessors in his election speeches, not saying much about Siddaramaiah or the state Congress. According to political analysts, BJP has realized that their local cadre led by B S Yeddyurappa has failed to enthuse the voters and mount a powerful campaign against the Siddaramaiah government.
The BJP central leadership also feels that instead of taking on Siddaramaiah, launching a blistering attack on Rahul Gandhi will benefit them more. Therefore, the Assembly election campaign is now looking like a Parliament poll in which larger national issues are debated, they said. But the Congress is aware of the dangers of allowing BJP to make it a Modi versus Rahul fight, and refuses to walk into that trap. It has asked Siddaramaiah to take on Modi, asking him questions about the state and his government’s contributions.
A senior leader said, “The state BJP’s morale is low. They seem to have accepted the defeat even before the voting. Their only hope is PM Modi. But he knows that there is nothing to talk about the previous BJP government’s achievements because it was the most corrupt and criminal government.” He further said, “The Siddaramaiah government has done a lot and looks formidable because of that the PM is trying to make it a Modi versus Rahul Gandhi battle. But we don’t want to walk into that trap and Siddaramaiah is leading the attack.”
BJP’s attempts to turn Karnataka Assembly elections into a fight between Modi and Rahul has not gone down well with many Kannadigas. Ramachandra Maharudrappa, an independent political observer, said that it was a state election and only state related issues should be discussed and debated, not the national issues. He said, “Modi and Rahul are not issues here. Siddaramaiah, Yeddyurappa and Kumaraswamy are the real issues here. All parties must discuss them.”
But the BJP has decided to depend more on Modi to turn the tide in their favour in a tough election. Earlier, Modi had agreed to address 15 rallies in five days and now he has agreed to address 21 rallies in the next eight days. They have also roped in UP CM Yogi Adithyanath to play Hindutva card in the elections. BJP’s chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa, who is now playing a second fiddle to top national leaders of the party, said that there was nothing wrong in Modi leading the campaign.
“Narendra Modi is our undisputed leader. He is the tallest leader. With his electrifying campaigning we will come to power in Karnataka,” he said. However, Yeddyurappa dismissed the claims that the BJP is trying to turn it into a Modi versus Rahul contest. “Rahul Gandhi is a non-issue in this election. Siddaramaiah is no match to Modi. We are not worried about them,” BJP’s CM candidate said.
Siddaramaiah, who is also crisscrossing the state, has been attacking both Modi and Yeddyurappa ridiculing them for endorsing corruption and corrupt leaders just to come to power at any cost. He is challenging them to talk about the state and not about national issues. He said, “Even if Modi comes hundred times, situation will not change. People are with the Congress and we will return to power”. Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha M Mallikarjuna Kharge said that Karnataka BJP was malnourished and Modi was bringing an energy tonic from New Delhi to keep it alive till the voting day.