SANTHEMARAHALLI, KARNATAKA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off his campaign for the Karnataka Assembly elections 2018 with a stinging attack on Rahul Gandhi at a poll rally at Santhemarahalli in southern Karnataka's Chamarajanagar district. He dared the Congress chief to speak for 15 minutes without reading from a piece of paper.
"He dared me. He claimed that if he speaks for 15 minutes I wouldn't be able to stand in front of him. You can speak Englis, you can speak Hindi, you may even be able to speak in your 'mother's tongue'. Speak in any language you want. I dare you to speak for 15 minutes without reading from a piece of paper. Speak for 15 minutes on your government's achievements over the last five year. If you can do that, the people of Karnatak (sic) will accept you," said Modi.
He also poked fun of the difficulty Rahul Gandhi faced during a speech in pronouncing the names of some icons of Karnataka, like Basaveshwara and Visvesvaraya. A clip of Rahul struggling to pronouncing the names, quite common among Kannadigas, and then settling for a mangled mispronunciation had gone viral. "I invite you to pronounce the names of Basaveshwara and Visvesvaraya correctly once in front of an audience," he taunted.
Just last week, the BJP's Karnataka unit poked fun of Rahul for this with a tweet.
After Rahul Gandhi got the fifteen minutes he asked for! pic.twitter.com/pGdHmsxa9w
— BJP Karnataka (@BJP4Karnataka) April 24, 2018
Watch the video over which Modi attacked Rahul Gandhi in his speech:
So the leader of the party that aftr 5 years of corrupt govt - is now claiming to build a #NavaKarnataka doesnt know about the great son of #Karnataka n #BharatRatna #SirMVishvesvaraya ! @BJP4Karnataka #KarnatakaElection2018 pic.twitter.com/FkS1pNADwD
— Rajeev Chandrasekhar (@rajeev_mp) March 26, 2018
He also sought to turn the tables on Rahul Gandhi with a classist counterattck, zeroing in on a part of his comment that Modi 'would not be able to stand' if he were to speak for 15 minutes. "You are naamdaar (name-bearer). I am kaamdar (worker). What right do we even have to sit in front of you?" he said.
Modi is scheduled to address two more election rallies. He next heads to the coastal town of Udipi, where he will seek the blessings of the head of the Pejawar Matha, Vishvesha Tirtha. After, he is set to address a rally around 3 pm at the AGM College Ground in the temple town.
Modi is then set to head to Chikkodi in northern Karnataka's Belagavi district, where also he is scheduled to address a rally.
Modi's campaign blitz comes with just 11 days to go before Karnataka votes on its next government. The state is set to go to the polls in a single phase on May 12, with the counting of votes set for May 15.
The BJP, with its Chief Ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa, is attempting to form the government for the second time in Karnataka. The Congress is looking to retain power under incumbent CM Siddaramaiah. The other major force in Karnataka politics - Deve Gowda's JD(S) - is also playing the game hard, perhaps with the hope of playing kingmaker.