Even as election campaigning drew to a close in poll-bound Karnataka last evening, the mood in the ground reflected various opinion polls and reports in the media ' it is advantage Congress in a state where, says Congress Vice President Shri Rahul Gandhi, "the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won the world cup of corruption."
Charges of crony capitalism, rampant corruption which the BJP is so fond of talking about in Delhi, are haunting the party in Karnataka. In past five years, the BJP leadership brought in three different chief ministers, as intra-party squabbles made the headlines almost every day. One of its chief ministers even had to spend a night in jail.
On Thursday at Gulbarga, Congress President Smt Sonia Gandhi charged the BJP government in Karnataka with having acquired a "dubious" reputation for "unparallelled loot" and corruption.
Smt Gandhi also sought details from the BJP government regarding Rs. 88,000 crore given to it for implementing centrally-sponsored development programmes. "In the last five years UPA government has given Rs. 88,000 crore to Karnataka government to implement centrally-sponsored development programmes. This is a huge amount. People have a right to ask where this money has gone," she said.
On the last day of his campaign in Karnataka, Shri Rahul Gandhi said, "The BJP has gone back on all the pre-poll promises it made to the people. Power supply throughout the state is erratic, people are suffering from water shortage, there is no water for irrigation for the farmers, unemployment is rising and Bangalore, once India's undisputed IT hub, is losing its sheen."
Shri Gandhi reiterated that it was strange that a political party which made noises about corruption in Delhi was completely silent on the same subject in Karnataka. In all the rallies he addressed, he spoke how the Bellary brothers controlled the state government, how the money earned from the export of iron ore from Bellary made its way to the pockets of corrupt BJP politicians instead of being used in development projects in the state.
Over the past few days, the Congress Vice President travelled through the entire state, bringing a message of hope and optimism to the people. At rally after rally, Shri Gandhi said he shared the sadness of the people of Karnataka, how they had been short-changed by a corrupt regime and he promised that the Congress would usher in a clean efficient government in the state that would work for the development of the common people.
The popularity of Shri Gandhi can be gauged from the fact that at Belgaum, considered to be a BJP stronghold, a huge crowd braved rains to hear the Congress Vice President. They sat in an open ground holding the chairs over their heads to protect themselves from the rain as they waited patiently to hear their favourite leader. He was cheered loudly as he began to speak.
A senior Congress leader in the state said, "The people of this state have suffered for years first when the JD(U) was in power and they have suffered even more now under BJP misrule. The time for deliverance has come, the people here need a clean, efficient government and that is what the Congress would provide."
When the BJP had won in Karnataka five years ago, it was the first time the party had come to power in any of the four south Indian states. Senior party leaders boasted in Delhi that Karnataka had opened the "gateway" to south India for the party. On election eve, as the party leadership discuss glum-faced the possibility of defeat in the forthcoming elections, that gateway to south India appears to be shutting its doors to the BJP.