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Ahead of polls, Rahul Gandhi on offensive in Karnataka
In the backdrop of various reports suggesting a clear majority for Congress in Karnataka, Vice President of the party Rahul Gandhi started his poll campaign with an offensive on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

As these are the first assembly elections being held after Rahul Gandhi took over the leadership of the party, the Congress’ return to power in this southern state is likely to have great impact on the national political scene, particularly in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

In a major offensive against the ruling BJP in the state, Gandhi accused the party of "looting" the state and claimed it would lose the May 5 assembly polls. Launching the Congress' campaign in northern Karnataka, he said BJP broke electoral promises and “the only thing they remembered was how to loot public money in the state. They have done it. They are past masters in this.”

Dismantling BJP’s attempt to project ‘good governance’ and ‘corruption’ as two major poll issues in the coming Lok Sabha polls, he tried to depict the saffron party as a miserably failure on these two fronts.

“... BJP will lose here. We can hear it in Delhi...,” Gandhi said, as he commenced his party's poll campaign with a brief speech losing no time in taking on the ruling BJP for “doing nothing but looting the state.”

Taking a swipe at the BJP for talking about corruption in Delhi, he slammed it for giving "Vidhan Sabha seats to two brothers (mining barons from Bellary Janardhana Reddy and Karunakara Reddy who are facing corruption cases).”

However, the BJP president Rajnath Singh tried to show a brave face, expressing confidence that the “lotus (BJP's poll symbol) is blooming all over the country while replying to a query whether the "lotus is sinking" in Karnataka, the first ever southern state where the party grabbed power five years ago. Rejecting assertions that the ruling BJP was “sinking” in the assembly poll-bound Karnataka, he asserted that it would re-emerge victorious in the elections.

The BJP leadership is also attempting to come out from the public perception that it has provided a ‘corrupt’ and ‘incompetent’ government in Karnataka by making former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, who had started his own regional out-fit Karnataka Janata Party, as a scapegoat.

Wearing a sympathetic tone towards former party strongman Yeddyurappa, Rajnath Singh, said he could have been reinstated as chief minister "if and when" he came clean in corruption cases against him. “When the Lokayukta had indicted him in corruption cases, the option left for Yedyurappa was to come clean from the court, Singh said. It is unfortunate that Yedyurappa created his own party,” he said, but added it would not impact the BJP's electoral prospects.

Singh, during election rallies across the state, had said the party was compelled to ask Yeddyurappa to step down following allegation of corruption and misdeeds.

On the other hand, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and other state leaders are accusing Yeddyurappa of being a source of corruption, stating that with his leaving the party, now BJP is clean. However, KJP leader and former minister Shobha Karandlaje said that Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar has to introspect about who betrayed whom.

Reacting to Shettar’s comment, former minister and KJP leader Shobha Karandlaje lamented that Shettar, who was a minister in Yeddyurappa’s Cabinet, joined hands with mining baron Janardhana Reddy and rebelled against the former CM.

“Reddy was against Yeddyurappa’s decision to increase export duty on iron ore. He wanted Yeddyurappa to resign and Shettar brought pressure on Yeddyurappa to toss me out of his Cabinet. When they rebelled against Yeddyurappa, there were no charges of corruption against him,” she said at a press meet here on Monday.

Meanwhile, former union minister and KJP campaign committee chairman V?Dhananjay Kumar has created ripples in BJP circles by making corruption allegations directly on the family members of BJP stalwart L K Advani. He claimed that the Advani’s children had appropriated money from the chief ministers of BJP-ruled states, including Yeddyurappa.

The stakes in Karnataka are high for the Congress, the BJP, as well as regional stalwarts like HD Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy and former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa. The father-son duo, strong in the central Karnataka, controls the Janata Dal (Secular) within their family and this is the fourth Assembly Election for the party.

On the other hand, Yedyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) - formed a few months ago - tests the electoral waters for the first time. Both of them are relying on two dominant castes in the state - Gowdas have their influence mainly among Vokkaligas, while Yedyurappa takes credit for swinging the Lingayat vote in favour of the BJP in 2008, reported IBN Live.

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jagadish shettar
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