The Congress’s star campaigner Rahul Gandhi kick-started his election campaign in the State by terming the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Karnataka leadership as “the masters of corruption”.

Addressing an election campaign meeting in support of Congress candidates from Raichur, Koppal and Bellary districts for the May 5 Assembly polls at Sindhanur town on Tuesday, the vice-president of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) said the BJP leaders who speak about corruption at the Centre did very little or nothing to curb corruption in Karnataka.

Corruption was the main theme of his address in Bijapur too, where he said that the BJP regime had set a “world record in corruption” and framed laws and policies not for the common people, but for mining barons in Bellary.

In Sindhanur, Mr. Gandhi said, “In the last elections, two brothers were given the responsibility to elect 40 MLAs, and later they were allowed to loot natural resources.”

He said that Karnataka, which once had a high reputation as a well-governed State opening up employment avenues in emerging sectors like information technology and earned the name ‘Silicon city’ of India, had suffered irreparable damage under the BJP government. “Employment avenues have shrunk and corruption at all levels has damaged the reputation of the State.” Taking credit for the amendment to Article 371 of the Constitution that gave special status to the backward Hyderabad Karnataka region, he said, “Now, I assure you that if the Congress party is voted to power in the State, the new government under the Congress will focus on three important issues of power, irrigation and employment.”

He said that this part of the Karnataka, which was endowed with iron ore, should get the full benefit of this natural resource. Instead of exporting iron ore, the government would take measures to set up steel plants in iron-ore-rich areas.

Mr. Gandhi charged the BJP government in the State with failing to utilise the abundant funds available under the MNREGA and to provide employment to the needy in rural areas.

Union Labour Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge, KPCC president G. Parameshwara and Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Siddaramaiah also spoke.

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