Rahul takes on BJP for 'looting' Karnataka, launches poll campaign

Sindhanoor/Bijapur: Seeking to deflate the anti-graft plank of BJP against UPA government, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday made a fierce attack on the party's rule in Karnataka, accusing it of "looting" the state and calling it a "champion" of corruption.

Setting an aggressive tone to the Congress campaign for the May 5 Assembly polls, in his first election outing since becoming the Vice President, Gandhi turned the spotlight mostly on corruption in his public meetings at Sindhanoor, Hungund and Bijapur in northern Karnataka.

"... BJP will lose here. We can hear it in Delhi...", Gandhi said as he took on the BJP by accusing it of "doing nothing but looting the state" during its five year rule marked by "various scandals".

Chiding the BJP for "breaking" electoral promises, he said "the only thing they remembered was how to loot public money in the state. They have done it. They are past masters in this".

"The BJP launched an agitation against corruption in the country. But in Karnataka, its government has been a champion of corruption," Gandhi told a meeting at Hungund.

Seeking to strike a chord with the gathering after arriving nearly two hours late in his first meeting at Sindhanoor, he tried to make it interactive posing questions on BJP's poll promises and whether they have been fulfilled to which the crowd responded with a vociferous 'no'.

Taking a swipe at the BJP for talking about corruption in Delhi, he slammed it for giving "Vidhan Sabha seats to two brothers (mining barons from Bellary Janardhana Reddy and Karunakara Reddy who are facing corruption cases)."

Castigating the BJP government for its alleged role in illegal export of iron ore, Gandhi said, "your iron ore is being sold to China and they (BJP government) are earning crores of Rupees."

"But this (resource) is yours. Steel factories should be established here. It is steel which should go to China. Instead they are looting this (iron ore) to sit in Vidhan Sabha," he said.

Flaying the state government for forgetting its promises of employment, water and 24-hour power supply, he said "last time you made BJP victorious, you trusted them. They promised you 24-hour power supply, did you get it? They promised you employment, did you get it? They forgot employment, power."

Gandhi also said Karnataka had lost its "shine" due to BJP's maladministration and assured the people to make the state a "forerunner", adding "... Your money, public money will be in your hands once again".

"It is not a government of the rich that will be formed in Karnataka. It will be people's government, government of the common man," he said.

The Congress blitzkerig will see Rahul Gandhi crisscrossing the state again, with party President Sonia Gandhi also slated to address meetings in the next few days as also Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the crucial poll battle in which the party hopes to return to power after about an eight-year long hiatus.