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Siddaramaiah-Modi exchange sets tone for Karnataka elections

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah hit back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi who during his rally in Bengaluru had accused the Congress government of supporting corruption.

india Updated: Feb 05, 2018 20:27 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Karnataka elections,Siddaramaiah,Narendra Modi
Siddaramaiah criticised Narendra Modi for failing to speak about farmers’ problems at his rally in Bengaluru.(HT File Photo)

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah on Monday called Prime Minister Narendra Modi “morally unfit” to hold the post after he accused the Congress government in the poll-bound state of supporting corruption.

Siddaramaiah’s riposte came after Modi said in a rally on Sunday that Karnataka has a “10% commission government” and promised that the BJP would root out corruption if voted to power in elections scheduled this May.

“Even if Modi makes 100 visits to the state or (BJP chief) Amit Shah engineers communal riots, we will win the upcoming state elections,” the Congress leader said.

He accused the Prime Minster of having supported and facilitated corruption by failing to set up a Lokpal in the past four years, and by not naming a Lokayukta for nine years when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.

“He did not speak like the Prime Minister of this country,” Siddaramaiah said. “According to me, he is morally unfit to be the Prime Minister,” the chief minister said.

The chief minister alleged that the BJP in Karnataka ran a government of looters. “The Lokayukta had given reports about how much ill-gotten wealth had been generated through illegal mining,” he said.

“[Former chief minister BS] Yeddyurappa was sitting next to him when he accused us of corruption. There is nothing more shameful than this,” he said. “There is nothing more shameful than the Prime Minister of 1.3 billion people stooping to the level of Yeddyurappa.”

Siddaramaiah questioned Modi’s understanding of the Constitution, saying he and BJP chief Shah were unaware of the difference between a state’s share from taxes and grants given by the Union government. This was in response to the BJP repeatedly pointing out that the state had received Rs 3 lakh crore.

“Where do the central government’s taxes come from? It is collected from states,” Siddaramaiah said. “Karnataka contributes 9% of the total taxes collected in the nation, which is the third highest. But we get only 4.65% from the Centre,” he said, asking the BJP to answer for this discrepancy.

Siddaramaiah criticised Modi for failing to speak about farmers’ problems at the rally.

“Farmers were hoping that he would speak about their distress, that he would say he will intervene in the Mahadayi water-sharing dispute, but he did not.”

He accused the Prime Minister of lying about the state’s law and order. “According to the National Crime Records Bureau, Karnataka accounts for only 5% of the total crimes in the country. BJP-ruled states Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are way ahead,” he said.

Reacting to the chief minister’s comments, the BJP said the state government appears rattled by the support Modi received at the rally.

“Prime Minister Modi won the mandate of the people and the whole world respects him. Such politically motivated statements are being made because Siddaramaiah is desperate as he knows he will lose,” said Union minister DV Sadananda Gowda.

Gowda said Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had launched a crackdown against underworld groups in his state, but the opposite was true for Karnataka.

The Union minister also said the chief minister has actively made the Lokayukta toothless and so has no right question the Prime Minister on Lokpal.

First Published: Feb 05, 2018 18:38 IST