Polling for 223 seats of the 224-member Assembly will be held on May 12.
Bengaluru: The vitriol-filled campaign for the Karnataka Assembly elections ended on Thursday with top leaders of the BJP and Congress, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, making a last-gasp effort to sway voters in a likely cliffhanger.
From corruption to communalism, attacks on the NDA over economic issues and PNB fraud to temple visits by leaders of all parties and bids to woo dalits, chief minister Siddaramaiah’s `70 lakh Hublot watch to questions over UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, the electoral potboiler had it all.
Like all state polls since he assumed the reins of power in New Delhi, Mr Modi helmed the BJP’s adrenaline-charged campaign despite the party having declared B.S. Yeddyurappa its chief ministerial candidate, while Rahul Gandhi spearheaded that of the Congress.
On the last day of campaign on Thursday, Mr Modi said that there is no place for dalits and backward classes in the heart of the Congress and BJP president Amit Shah alleged that the Congress wants to win Karnataka elections in an “undemocratic” manner.
Addressing BJP’s SC/ST/OBC and Slum Morcha workers through his Namo App, Mr Modi said the Congress used “all its power” to defeat Ambedkar when he contested Lok Sabha election in 1952 and Bandara Lok Sabha by-election in 1953.
“That is the reason why Baba Saheb had to face defeat and insult. Let Congress show at least one thing it did to honour Baba Saheb… There is no place for dalits and backward classes in the heart of the Congress,” he said.
Mr Shah, who extensively campaigned in the state, told reporters in Bengaluru on Thursday, “The Congress wants to win elections in an undemocratic manner...
The developments in the last three days have sent a shock wave across India among those who are concerned about strengthening democracy.”
He was referring to the seizure of “bogus” voter ID cards from a flat here.
Earlier in the day, Mr Shah led a massive road show in Badami constituency from where chief minister Siddaramaiah is contesting besides Chamundeshwari seat in Mysuru.
The BJP president claimed that Siddaramaiah is going to lose from both the seats and expressed confidence that the BJP will win at least 130 seats in the 224-member Assembly and there will be no need to take any party’s support.
The Congress turned on the heat on the BJP by releasing a video, it claimed, shows BJP’s B. Sriramulu negotiating a bribe for a favourable verdict in a 2010 illegal mining case, with a relative of a judge, who was in the Supreme Court at the time. The BJP has fielded Mr Sriramulu, a close aide of tainted mining baron Janardhana Reddy, from the Badami constituency against Mr Siddaramaiah. After the video was released, Mr Shah said, “The video is fake, don’t believe it.”
Congress president Rahul Gandhi ended the last day of campaign by responding to the Prime Minister’s sarcastic barb at UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi over her foreign origin, claiming, “My mother is more Indian than many Indians.”
Mr Gandhi said Mr Modi’s attack on him declaring his Prime Ministerial ambitions was aimed at distracting attention.
“I have now learnt to deal with the Prime Minister. When he can’t respond, he distracts,” Mr Gandhi told reporters in Bengaluru after winding up his extensive tour of the poll-bound state.
Polling for 223 seats of the 224-member Assembly will be held on May 12. Election for the Jayanagar seat was countermanded after the death of the sitting BJP MLA and its candidate B.N. Jayakumar. Results will be declared on May 15. The number of voters in Karnataka is 4.9 crore. In 2013, a turnout of 70.23 per cent was recorded.
During the election campaign, Mr Modi repeatedly addressed the Siddaramaiah ministry as “seedha rupaiah” government (a government that takes bribes for work) and “10 per cent commission government”.
Provoked, Mr Siddaramaiah first called the Mr Modi dispensation a “90 per cent commission government” and then served legal notices on Mr Modi and Mr Shah, demanding an apology and threatening to file `100 crore civil and criminal defamation suits.
Rally after election rally, Mr Gandhi targeted BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Mr Yeddyurappa over corruption when he helmed the state while BJP was in power between 2008 and 2013.
“Will Modi ji tell the people of Karnataka why a man who spent time in jail for corruption is the BJP’s CM candidate? Why the BJP has given eight tickets to Reddy brothers and their associates who looted `35,000 crore from the people of Karnataka?” he asked.
The Congress president frequently referred to fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi in his speeches, alleging that the government allowed him to flee the country after defrauding the Punjab National Bank.
Mrs Gandhi also addressed a rally in the Lingayat stronghold of Vijayapura where she said, “Modi is possessed by the devil of ‘Congress mukt Bharat’ (bhoot lag gaya hai).”
Opinion polls and surveys have projected a thriller of a contest, with neither BJP nor the Congress getting a majority on its own and the JD(S) of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda playing the kingmaker.
During the campaign, Mr Modi initially praised Mr Gowda and later hit out at him for having an understanding with the Congress.