Rahul Gandhi asks Karnataka Congress to be wary of BJP 'stealing' next govt

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at a public meeting ahead of Assembly polls in Kolar on April 16

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at a public meeting ahead of Assembly polls in Kolar on April 16

Bengaluru/Kolar: Rahul Gandhi on Sunday exuded confidence of the Congress coming to power post May 10 assembly polls in Karnataka but wanted the party to net more than 150 seats so that the next government is not "stolen" by a "corrupt" BJP.

On a two-day visit to the poll-bound state, the disqualified MP also launched an attack against industrialist Gautam Adani to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling the businessman "a symbol of corruption." He launched the broadside against Adani and Modi at Kolar, from where in 2019 during Lok Sabha election campaigning, he made a remark on the Modi surname for which he was convicted for criminal defamation and stripped of his Parliament membership last month.

At Bengaluru, he bought a Nandini ice cream, and called the dairy brand Karnataka's pride. His comments assume significance in the backdrop of the Nanidini vs Amul battle, where the state's opposition parties including the Congress have been rallying behind the flagship brand of the Karnataka Milk Federation amid take over fears by the Gujarat-based dairy giant.

In his address here, the former Congress president said there was a strong undercurrent in favour of the party in Karnataka but pressed on his leaders to ensure that the party wins at least 150 seats.

He also reminded everyone that people in the party have a duty to defend the idea of India from the RSS and BJP amid hatred, violence and attacks on the country's institutions.

"Most of us are aware of what the BJP is doing to the nation in terms of hatred and violence, the attack on institutions. These are the things that are visible to everybody," Gandhi said after inaugurating Indira Gandhi Bhavan.

Dwelling on his party's prospects in the May 10 Karnataka Assembly election, he said: "We are facing an election now in Karnataka and I am quite happy to see that there is a very strong undercurrent in favour of the Congress and I am confident that the party is going to win the election." The Congress leader expressed happiness that there was "certain amount of unity" among party leaders in the state. Top state Congress leaders, former CM Siddaramiah and thep party's state president DK Shivakumar are nursing chief ministerial ambitions.

Indicating that close contests would not suffice, Gandhi urged his state leaders to ensure the party wins at least 150 seats of the total 224 in the Assembly.

"We have to win the election with 150 seats because the BJP is a corrupt organisation. The BJP has a huge amount of money that they have stolen from the people of Karnataka and they will attempt to steal the next government as well," he underlined.

Lashing out at the Basavaraj Bommai-led government as being one of the most corrupt, he said the "40 per cent Sarkar" tag has stuck on to it.

At Kolar, he launched an attack on Adani and the PM and sought to know Modi’s "relation" with the businessman.

"I was disqualified from Parliament. They (central government) think that they will scare me by removing me and threatening me. I am not the one to get scared," Gandhi told the crowd at the event called 'Jai Bharat'.

"Till the time I get the reply, I will keep asking this question. You disqualify me, jail me or do whatever you want, I am not going to get scared," he added.

Alleging that there was no investigation happening against Adani Group's firms that operate in the defence infrastructure, Gandhi charged that the chairman of the beleaguered conglomerate has appointed a Chinese man in his "shell company".

"Adani is a symbol of corruption," Gandhi said.

"I want to ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi--what is your relation with Adani who is being given airports in India? Rules are changed for him to award him contract. Why are the rules being changed?" Gandhi wondered.

The former Congress president said Adani Group has no expertise to run airports, which is a prerequisite for operating them but yet they were handed over to the business group.

Gandhi added he has already raised the issue of Rs 20,000 crore belonging to Adani's "shell companies" and wanted to know whose money it was.

Upon raising these questions, the ruling party (BJP) did not allow Parliament to function, Gandhi alleged.

"If you wholeheartedly help Adani, we (Congress) will wholeheartedly help poor, unemployed youth and women. You (PM Modi) do your work, we will do our work," Gandhi said.

Further, Gandhi asked if the PM would release the 2011 caste-based census data in the public domain and also demanded the 50 per cent cap on reservation be removed.

The Congress-led UPA regime had compiled the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) in 2011. The reports from the census have been published except that of the caste data. The 50 per cent ceiling refers to Supreme Court judgments pointing out that the overall reservation in government jobs and education for various communities should not breach the mark although there are exceptions with some states crossing the figure.

"UPA in 2011 did the caste-based census. It has the data of all the castes. Mr Prime Minister, you talk of OBCs. Make that data public. Let the nation know how many OBCs, Dalits and tribals are there in the country, In the outgoing 224-member Karnataka Assembly, the BJP has 119 seats, followed by the Congress with 75 and the JD (S) with 28 seats. Two seats are vacant.

While polling for the Assembly election will take place on May 10, the results would be declared on May 13.