No Modi effect in Karnataka: Cong

Congress general secretary in-charge for Karnataka K C Venugopal. PTI file photo

The Assembly election in Karnataka is a contest between the current Siddaramaiah government and the previous B S Yeddyurappa dispensation, and there is hardly any 'Modi effect', Congress general secretary in-charge for Karnataka K C Venugopal said on Wednesday.

He also claimed there was a "match fixing" between the BJP, which is aspiring to form its government in the state for the second time, and the JD(S) of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda.

"There is not much Modi effect in Karnataka election. This is an election between Siddaramaiah government and former Yeddyurappa government," Venugopal said.

In Karnataka, he said Modi was viewed as a leader of just another political party.

"I don't see any Modi wave here in Karnataka. I'm not minimizing the personality of the prime minister. Here people take him as a leader of a political party, a BJP leader," he said.

Dubbing the Karnataka polls as the "semi-final" before the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Congress MP said the party was confident of breaking the jinx and retaining power in the state, something no party has been able to do since 1985.

"We will get 130 plus seats. I'm damn sure...we are working for last one year here (for achieving the goal)," Venugopal told PTI when pointed out that no party has been able to achieve the feat of retaining power in the state since 1985.

The Congress will be able to form its government despite the 'match fixing' between the BJP and JD(S), he said.

Venugopal backed party president Rahul Gandhi's charge that Deve Gowda's party was a 'B team' of the BJP.

He said Kumaraswamy repeatedly visited Chamundeshwari, from where Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was in the fray, only with the intention of having him defeated.

"There (Chamundeshwari) BJP has not put up a strong candidate (to help the JD(S) nominee). In Varuna (from where Siddaramaiah's son Yatindra is contesting) JD(S) has not fielded a strong candidate (to aid the BJP candidate)".

"There is clear match fixing between BJP and the JD(S)," he claimed.

When asked if the Congress will join hands with the JD(S) in the event of a fractured mandate, as being projected by various surveys, Venugopal said there was "no question" of a hung Assembly.

About protests by Congress ticket aspirants and their supporters after candidates were announced, Venugopal said the turn of events were "most peaceful" this time as compared to those witnessed after the announcement of the names of the nominees in 2008 and 2013.

Referring to similar dissidence and show of anger by supporters of BJP leaders who wanted to contest the elections, Venugopal said, "Comparatively things are perfectly okay now... because we have done a lot of homework.

"There were several aspirants...we are talking to them. The chief minister, PCC president and I myself have spoken to them and have tried to pacify them. They are all okay now."

He rejected suggestions that Siddaramaiah had his way deciding the nominees, something that did not go down well with senior leaders like Mallikarjun Kharge and Veerappa Moily.

"Some people are saying the chief minister got the maximum number of seats, he got maximum advantage. That is a baseless allegation.  He was accommodative, I can say that the chief minister was most accommodative in the selection of candidates," he said.

He said 200 candidates were finalised by the screening committee unanimously.

The senior Congress leader said Siddaramaiah was contesting from two constituencies-- Chamundeshwari and Badami-- as part of a "strategic" decision by the party high command, not because the chief minister wanted it.

When asked why Siddaramaiah was not declared the party's chief ministerial candidate, Venugopal said, usually, Congress did not have the custom of declaring CM face.

"Our tradition is like that. We have given a clear picture that Siddaramaiah is going to be the leader of the campaign, being the present chief minister. After the election, legislators will meet and take the decision (choose the new chief minister)," he added.

Responding to allegations that the Siddaramaiah government had tried to split Hindus by recommending religious minority status for the numerically strong and influential Lingayats, he said the representation from leaders of the community was forwarded to the Centre, which will now take a decision.

When asked whether the move will help the Congress reap a rich electoral harvest, he said, the party will be backed by all sections as they "feel justice is being done to them and their demands are being looked at".

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