In Narendra Modi’s Karnataka election bid, a hint of 2019: Will Rahul Gandhi be his trump card?

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New Delhi | Updated: May 1, 2018 5:58:22 PM

karnataka election 2018: Modi referred to Gandhi as "Naamdaar (dynast)" and himself and the BJP as "Kaamdaar" while attacking the Congress' criticism of the government's claim that all Census villages of India have been electrified.

narendra modi karnatakaChamarajanagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa share a lighter moment during Karnataka election campaign rally at Chamarajanagar on Tuesday. PTI Photo

Karnataka election 2018: He has done this repeatedly during elections. Tuesday was also no exception for Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he set what could be his campaign high point in the remaining days before Karnataka goes to polls on May 12.

Just like Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections of the last year, when Modi repeatedly referred to “karnaame” and “kunba (clan)” to attack Samajwadi Party and its leader Akhilesh Yadav, Modi seems to have found another word that will likely be the rallying point in all his campaign speeches in Karnataka and beyond.

Modi referred to Gandhi as “naamdaar (dynast)” and himself and the BJP as “kaamdaar” while attacking the Congress’ criticism of the government’s claim that all Census villages of India have been electrified.

“Perhaps due to over-excitement, the newly elected Congress President forgets decency. He did not even bother to congratulate the hardworking ‘Mazdoors’ due to whom India’s villages are getting electricity. The Congress President is ‘Namdaar’ so how does he know about the efforts of ‘Kaamdaars’.

“We are now going to provide electricity to every household of India. I want to ask those who ruled India for a majority of the years since 1947- why did they not think about the 18,000 villages lacking access to electricity,” the PM said.

Modi also said, “Congress President has challenged me – if he speaks for 15 minutes in Parliament, Modi will not be able to sit. He is correct- there is no way ordinary people like me, who do not even dress well, can sit with such high and mighty people like the Congress President…We are Kaamdaars. What is our level that we can sit with people like the Congress President, who look down on us.”

Referring to then PM Manmohan Singh’s promise to electrify all villages of India in 2005, Modi said: “In 2005, during the time of Smt. Sonia Gandhi’s Government, Dr. Manmohan Singh had said he will provide electricity to every village by 2009. What happened to that? In any case, we saw how the Congress treated Dr. Manmohan Singh. They tore off ordinances and disrespected him…Dr. Manmohan Singh said we will electrify villages by 2009, Smt. Sonia Gandhi went a step ahead and said we will provide electricity to every house by 2009. But what happened? Congress has nothing but contempt for the poor and the labourers of India.”

Interestingly, in what is a clear hint that Modi’s speech, the use of word ‘naamdaar’ was strategically planned in advance, the BJP social media cell started sharing the news of the promise made by Manmohan Singh in 2005.

Even Union minister Piyush Goyal used the word “naamdaar” to attack Gandhi in a series of tweets: “I am a law topper, CA 2nd rank all over India, professional Chartered Accountant & investment banker and therefore competent to give consultancy. BTW Mr @PChidambaram_IN who are the consultants in your son @KartiPC’s consultancy. Till 26th May 2014, before I became a Minister, I was a professional Chartered Accountant & investment banker. Unlike you, Mr @RahulGandhi, I have not learnt well the art of living without working. I am also a kaamdaar (worker) and not a naamdaar (dynast).”

Ahead of the 2014 General Elections, Modi had set his campaign tone by referring to Gandhi as “shahzade (prince)”. The use of the word  had hurt the Congress then just as “kaarname” and “kunba” did to Samajwadi Party in 2017.

Modi vs Rahul in Karnataka

Modi on Tuesday turned the battle of the state into a direct fight between him and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Over the last many months, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has tried his best to shape the Karnataka battle narrative into a contest between him and PM Modi. With the prime minister hitting the ground for BJP, 11 days before voting in Karnataka, Siddaramaiah’s best effort is unlikely to pay off.

Rahul Gandhi dominated Modi’s speech on Tuesday at Santhemarahalli in Chamarajanagara district with the highlight being his counterchallenge to the Congress president.

In his recent speeches, Gandhi had been claiming that Modi won’t be able to stand on his feet if he gets to speak for 15 minutes in Parliament. Modi today counterchallenged Gandhi, daring the latter to speak in any language for 15 minutes about the achievements of Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka.

Modi said, “Congress President has challenged me that if he speaks for 15 minutes in the Parliament, Modi will not be able to sit. He is correct. There is no way ordinary people like me, who do not even dress well, can sit with such high and mighty people like the Congress President…We are Kaamdaars (labourers). What is our status that we can sit with people like the Congress President, who look down on us.”

“Chose any language – English, Hindi, Kannada or your mother’s mothertongue Italian, and speak for 15 minutes, without taking a paper in your hand, about the achievements of your government in Karnataka. Also, pronounce the name of Vishweshwaraiah five times in your speech,” the prime minister said in his counter-dare to Gandhi.

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