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Karnataka Election Result: When Sonia Gandhi Made A Comeback After Two Years

Both Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi had held rallies in the crucial Lingayat stronghold, which has been a focal point of Karnataka elections.

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Updated:May 15, 2018, 8:56 AM IST
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Karnataka Election Result: When Sonia Gandhi Made A Comeback After Two Years
File photo: UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi speaks during a public rally for an election campaign ahead of Karnataka Assembly elections 2018 in Bijapur on May 8. (PTI Photo)
New Delhi: In her first and only public rally after almost two years, Sonia Gandhi gave PM Narendra Modi a back-handed compliment when she lauded him for being the “finest speaker,” ahead of Karnataka election. Immediately after, she said such speeches are not good enough to provide food, shelter and medicines to the poor.

Gandhi also slammed Modi for his idea of Congress-mukt Bharat, saying it was as if the bhoot (ghost) of Congress-mukt Bharat has consumed the PM.

"Narendra Modi is proud that he is a good orator, I agree with this. But he speaks quite like an actor. I will feel happy if his speeches can end hunger in the country. But it simply cannot. Just as it cannot empower women or heal the sick,” said Sonia Gandhi, addressing a huge crowd at Bijapur city, which has been a traditional stronghold of the Congress party until BJP’s Appu Pattanshetty won the seat in 2008.

“Forget Congress-mukt Bharat, Modi cannot tolerate anyone in front of him,” she said. Gandhi’s sharp attack on Modi came at a time when BJP raked up her foreign-origin issue on the day of her first election rally in Karnataka.

Sonia’s jibe at Modi was a counter to Karnataka BJP’s tweet: “Today, Ms. Antonio Maino is here in K’taka to save her last citadel from falling! Madam Maino, K’taka needs no lessons from the person who was solely responsible for wastingIndia’s 10 precious years. And to Congress, need to remind you of your ‘import’ jibe?”

Significantly, BJP’s tweet had come as a counter to Congress’ charge that BJP was importing North Indian leaders to Karnataka to win elections in an obvious reference to series of rallies by Yogi Adityanath - the Hindutva poster-boy of the party.

Both Modi and Sonia had held rallies in the crucial Lingayat stronghold, which has been a focal point of these elections, on the same day.

Addressing people in the Lingayat heartland, Gandhi reminded the public that she is aware of the fact that she is addressing the people of Bijapur, which is a land of great Basavanna. Gandhi, who has been at the helm of power in the Congress and has been party president for almost 20 years, decided to pave way for her son Rahul Gandhi, who was elected the party’s national president unopposed late last year.

She has opted out of election campaigns avoiding several Assembly elections ever since she had to abruptly end her election campaign in Varanasi in May 2016 due to health issues.

In Karnataka, Congress has left the election management in the hands of Siddaramaiah, who was given a free hand in ticket distribution and has been the main campaigner for the party even though Congress president Rahul Gandhi also criss-crossed the state covering almost three dozen rallies in the last three months.

Sensing the importance of the Lingayats, it was Siddaramaiah who recommended religious minority status for the powerful Lingayat sect last year. It forced the BJP not only to go back to its old face Yeddyurappa, who doesn’t quite enjoy a corruption-free image, but also forced party president Amit Shah to focus on Lingayat mutts and seeking blessings of several Lingayat seers during the first phase of campaigning.

Party insiders say Sonia Gandhi’s rally in Bijapur was strategically planned in Bijapur city as PM Modi’s rally was already scheduled in Sarawad, a small town about 17 kms away from Bijapur City.

Sonia’s Bijapur rally was planned by Congress leader from Bijapur MB Patil, who has been keen in establishing himself as a Lingayat face of the Congress party though has not met with much success. It was Patil who last year lead the thousands of Lingayats gathered in Bidar and demanded minority status for their faith. Patil, who is a four-time MLA and also water resources minister, was the main organiser of Sonia’s rally in Bijapur.

While addressing the huge rally in Sarawad in Bijapur, Modi invoked the name of social reformer Lord Basaveshwara and attacked Congress of betra12th-centuryh century philosopher and saint.

Last month, sensing the importance of Lingayats in Karnataka polls, Modi even chose to pay homage to the Lingayat saint and unveiled the statue of Lord Basaveshwara at the banks of river Thames during his visit to the UK.

A dominant group in North Karnataka, Lingayats are a decisive force in around 85 to 90 of the 224 seats in the Assembly and a number of Karnataka CMs have belonged to the Lingayat community.

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| Edited by: Huma Tabassum
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