Despite coming to power on an anti-corruption plank against those like Anand Singh and Nagendra, the Karnataka Congress joins ranks with those they pilloried
The irony cannot be missed. And, as is often said, it can happen only in politics.
By all standards, the launch of Rahul Gandhi’s election campaign in the elections to the Karnataka Assembly was impressive, in terms of organisation and the size of the audience – a very enthusiastic audience at that.
But Saturday’s Jan-Ashirwad rally of the Congress at Hospete in Ballari district was distinctive in more than one way.
The presence of two people made eyebrows shoot up. Both are accused of involvement in the Rs 16,500 crore illegal mining scam uncovered in 2011 by Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde. Both were pilloried by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and the Congress during that time. Hospete BJP MLA Anand Singh and Kudligi Independent MLA B Nagendra joined the party in the presence of its brand new national president, Rahul Gandhi.
Siddaramaiah had led a 320 km padayatra from Bengaluru to Ballari in 2010 against the illegal mining lobby and the “misrule” of the then BS Yeddyurappa-led BJP government, after Nagendra, an associate of mining kingpin G Janardhan Reddy, had dared him “to set foot in Ballari if you can.” The success of this padayatra pitched the Congress to power in 2013.
The audience was tickled when Siddaramaiah referred to this padayatra in Saturday’s rally and said he had undertaken it so that the people of Ballari could live in peace. He even said – “A BJP MLA challenged me to enter Ballari” – as that same BJP MLA sat on stage.
And then Siddaramaiah slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for speaking against corruption, when he had the scam-accused Yeddyurappa sitting next to him on stage.
The irony that two of the same scam he was referring to, including Nagendra who had dared him, were both sitting on the same stage after being welcomed by Gandhi, with garlands, seemed to escape Siddaramaiah. Members of the audience though did not miss the irony. They laughed and passed caustic comments.
The most sarcastic comment, however, was a tweet from Yeddyurappa.
Yeddyurappa was referring to Rahul Gandhi’s jibe on February 10 in response to Prime Minister Modi’s pot shots at the Congress rule of the past in Parliament. Gandhi had said that Modi only saw things in the “rear view mirror,” which led to the vehicle he was driving falling into ditches.
Yeddyurappa was also pointing to Ballari district-in-charge Minister Santosh Lad, a former mining baron, as well as AICC general secretary in charge of Karnataka KC Venugopal who is dealing with allegations of rape in his home state of Kerala.
The biggest irony though is the people’s support to a “scam accused.” The massive rally seemed to be a show of strength for Anand Singh, who got the loudest applause from his constituents. He and Nagendra gave expensive idols as gifts to Gandhi on the stage.
No mention of the scam mattered to Somashekar Nayak, a Congress worker in the area – “We are here because of Anand Singh. Yes, we had worked for the BJP when he was there. And we will work for him in this election as well when he represents the Congress.”
Said Mohammed Peer, another ardent fan of Anand Singh – “We support Anand Singh because he cares for us. We can go to him anytime for help. And he is there for us without any kind of irritation or rancour.”