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Congress Eyes Poll Gains in Karnataka Over ‘Amma... errr...Indira' Canteens

The Indira canteens, run by the government to give food at affordable rates for the poor, were launched by the Gandhi scion with him cutting the ribbon and eating a meal at one of the canteens in south Bengaluru.

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18deepab18

Updated:August 17, 2017, 12:01 AM IST
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Congress Eyes Poll Gains in Karnataka Over ‘Amma... errr...Indira' Canteens
Rahul Gandhi at the launch of Indira canteen in Bengaluru on Wednesday. (Photo: CNN-News18)
Bengaluru: The photo is etched on the cement wall. Even if another party or a coalition of parties comes to power in the Assembly 2018 elections, the larger-than-life picture of Indira Gandhi on the walls of all the ‘Indira canteens’ is likely here to stay.

And Indira canteens launched by the Karnataka government became the new battleground for the Congress to trade barbs against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bengaluru on Wednesday, with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah both using the launch event for politics.

The Indira canteens, run by the government to give food at affordable rates for the poor, were launched by the Gandhi scion with him cutting the ribbon and eating a meal at one of the canteens in south Bengaluru.

“Indira Gandhi used to talk of ‘roti-kapda-makaan.’ Today, under the Siddaramaiah government, we want to ensure that the weakest person in Bengaluru does not go hungry. Our intention is to ensure quality and cleanliness,” Gandhi said at the inauguration.

In a comical slip of the tongue, he said ‘hunger-free Karnataka,’ is “the motto of the Amma… errr... Indira canteens,” forgetting for a moment that the canteens, modelled on the ‘Amma canteens’ of neighbouring Tamil Nadu, are named after his grandmother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Breakfast will be given at Rs 5, lunch and dinner at Rs 10 at the 101 canteens that were started on Wednesday. In a few weeks, there will be 198 canteens across the city – one for each ward under the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike.

“Our aim is to ensure everyone gets at least two meals a day. Many from the Opposition have criticised this move but this is for the poor and the daily wagers. The people whose stomachs are full won’t understand the problems of those who go to bed hungry every night,” Siddaramaiah said, in an oblique reference to BJP leaders.

He said this was the dream of many leaders like Basavanna to Indira, and the government would not delay any pro-poor project; instead, such projects would be taken up with a sense of urgency.

The occasion was also used by him to reiterate that only the Congress is pro-poor, pro-Dalit and pro-minorities. Taunting Prime Minister Modi further, Siddaramaiah said, “The PM keeps has been giving us ‘mann-ki-baat’ for the last three years. We are now giving ‘vaangi-bhaath’ (a rice-dish made of brinjal and spices),” in an obvious reference to talk Vs action.

Later, at a public meeting, he asked all Congress workers to pan out and spread the word among voters so that the Congress is able to win in all 28 Assembly constituencies in Bengaluru.

This should be the gateway to anoint Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister in the 2019 elections, he further said.

The party, in fact, has been facing flak for not addressing infrastructure problems in the city over the last four years -- and is unsure of its own election prospects in the city, considering that the BJP has been able to make enough noise about civic issues in the metro and the government's failure in tackling them.

BJP's general secretary CT Ravi tweeted about the rain havoc in the city over the last two days, asking Gandhi to not just visit Indira canteens but also the 'Siddarmaiah mess'; that the Congress is still fighting hunger and nutrition after ruling over the country for decades.

The trading of barbs as also seen at the public rally after the canteen inauguration, where Siddarmaiah took pot-shots at BJP National President Amit Shah’s allegations that the Karnataka Congress government is the most corrupt in the country.

“Who is saying this? A man who went to jail in Gujarat. Who is he standing next to, when he says all this? Yeddyurappa, Janardhan Reddy, Krishnaiah Setty, Katta Subramanya Naidu,” the CM said, dramatically reeling out names of those who have been to jail on corruption allegations in the previous BJP government.

Shah was in Bengaluru for three days just to pull up those leaders within his party who have been fighting with each other – the Yeddyurappa-Shoba faction, the Ananth Kumar faction and the Eshwarappa faction, who have all been at loggerheads with each other, Siddaramaiah claimed.

“And I believe Shah is quite ignorant of State finances. He keeps saying the (Central) BJP government has given much more grants for Karnataka, and wants me to account for how we spent it. Does he not know this is not grant, this is our own share in the tax-money, that is given back to us? It is our Constitutional right,” he thundered, adding he was not accountable to Shah but to the people and Legislature of the State.

The poll-lines clearly drawn, he asked BJP MPs from the State to go and ‘gherao’ Parliament so that the shortfall of Rs 10600 crores that were sanctioned but pending are released immediately.

Calling the BJP’s CM candidate Yeddyurappa a ‘dongi’ (pretense) politician, he said the BJP leaders who used to visit Dalit homes everyday have now stopped about being pro-Dalit, ever since he (Siddarmaiah) told them to prove being pro-Dalit by allowing inter-marriage between their children with Dalit grooms and brides.

Gandhi, who also used the public event to taunt the Modi government, said the PM’s speech was high on rhetoric but did not speak about the Gorakhpur tragedy or unemployment or a messed-up foreign policy where we have antagonised all our neighbours.

“The work (of the previous UPA government) over ten years was undone in a month in Kashmir. We had brought in peace in Jammu and Kashmir, because that is what Pakistan is scared of. They want an environment of hatred here, as they can take advantage of it. That has happened today,” Gandhi said.

He said Modi was busy swinging on a ‘jhula’ with the Chinese president, even as Chinese soldiers were advancing into our borders.

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| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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