Karnataka braces for fresh round of Narendra Modi-Rahul Gandhi face-off after Gujarat elections

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New Delhi | Updated: February 12, 2018 4:02:23 PM

Karnataka election 2018: After Gujarat assembly elections 2017, Karnataka is set for a Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi battle once again.

modi rahul karnataka electionKarnataka election 2018: Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi face-off likely in Karnataka. (IE File Photo/Anil Sharma)

Karnataka election 2018: After Gujarat assembly elections 2017, Karnataka is set for a Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi battle once again. In Gujarat, where Gandhi led the Congress from the front, BJP managed to come back to power with much difficulty even as Prime Minister Modi put all his might at work in the high-octane battle. Betraying its own expectations of 150+ seats in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, the BJP had to contend with just 99 seats while the Congress made huge gains, especially in rural Gujarat and Patidar bastions.

The Congress had followed a clever strategy of aligning with protesting Patidar leader Hardik Patel and other youth leaders like Alpesh Thakore, who joined the Congress, and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani. Not only this, Rahul Gandhi went on a temple-hopping drive too wean some hardcore Hindu votes off BJP.

The script would be different for the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections but the dominant theme is likely to remain the same. That is, the Karnataka elections would eventually turn into a Modi versus Gandhi battle.

Earlier, some experts had opined that Karnataka polls would be a fight between Modi and incumbent Congress CM Siddaramaiah. This has changed with Gandhi using the Karnataka poll pitch to target Modi, and not the local BJP unit. And it is not surprising as both leaders gear up for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Gandhi is positioning himself as the prime contender to dislodge Modi from his seat at the Centre.

During his ongoing three-day visit to the poll-bound state, the Congress president has not just made Modi the focal point of his speeches, but also warned the PM to “start working” before his time at the Centre ends.

“You will have to tell the country during the elections what you did in the last five years. It is going to be five years and you have not even opened your account,” PTI quoted Gandhi as saying on the second day of his “Janashirvada Yatra” in northern Karnataka on Sunday.

Watch Rahul Gandhi speech at Hospete, Karnataka

Interestingly, Gandhi’s direct attacks on Modi come in the wake of the latter going all out against the Congress’ “divisive” past in Parliament recently.

While replying to the motion of thanks to President’s speech at the start of Budget Session 2018 in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on 8 February, Modi had attacked all former Congress prime ministers – starting from Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh. Modi had said poor policies of the Congress government had led India to languish behind countries that became independent along with or after New Delhi.

On Sunday, Rahul reminded Modi of his promises, saying the PM should better answer about his promises and not talk about the Congress. “Modi ji stop giving speeches and start working, because you don’t have much time,” Rahul said.

During his visit to Karnataka capital Bengaluru this month, Modi had fiercely targeted the Congress, saying the people of the state had decided to make “Karnataka Congress-free” and get rid of the “Congress culture.”

As election heat builds up in Karnataka, a Modi versus Gandhi battle looks inevitable. In the end, it may also prove to be a popularity test for the new Congress president and PM as other characters like Siddaramaiah and BS Yeddurappa are relegated to the sidelines.

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