Coalition partners Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) led by their respective party heads, Rahul Gandhi and HD Deve Gowda, shared the stage at a rally in Bengaluru in an attempt to send a message of unity in their efforts to upstage the BJP government at the Centre.
The 'Parivartana Samavesha' rally held in the Bengaluru International Exhibition Centre on Tumakuru Road in the northern part of the city, was the first political rally jointly held by the two parties since announcing a pre-poll alliance in 2018.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi chose the occasion to remind his party workers that they should support JD(S) candidates and also stated that he expected the JD(S) to support his party. "I want to tell the Congress workers and leaders that they must support the JDS candidates wherever they are contesting and also expect the same from JD(S) workers. The aim of our two parties is to defeat Narendra Modi and BJP", he said at the start of his address.
Rahul's speech in Hindi was translated to Kannada by Congress leader BL Shankar. His statement comes at a time when reports of disagreements between party workers of traditional rivals Congress and JD(S) have emerged from places like Mandya, Mysuru, Hassan, Tumakuru and Udupi. The party has warned its cadre to work in tandem with the JD(S) and ensure that the alliance wins the maximum number of seats in Karnataka.
Rahul also highlighted the Congress' proposed minimum income scheme and claimed that it was the party's 'surgical strike on the poor'. "Modi said he'd give Rs 15 lakh to everybody. But I'll tell you the truth. The government cannot put Rs 15 lakh in everybody's accounts. But it can put Rs 72000 into the accounts of the poorest 20%. In five years, we will put Rs 3.6 lakh crore in the accounts of the poor. This is our surgical strike on poverty. 25 crore people will benefit and five crore families will get money deposited in the account", he added.
JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda meanwhile said that regional leaders from across the country had come together to fight PM Modi. “For the first time in the country, all regional leaders had come together on May 23, 2018, when the coalition government was formed in Karnataka. This was to prove that this country is not a Hindu Rashtra as per the RSS vision,” he said.
As per the pre-poll alliance struck between the two parties, Congress is fielding candidates in 21 constituencies while the JD(S) is fielding candidates in seven constituencies. There are a total of 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka. The JD(S) surrendered the Bengaluru (North) seat to the Congress after the party was not able to finalise a candidate. Congress leader Pramod Madhwaraj meanwhile is contesting on a JD(S) ticket from Udupi-Chikkamagaluru.
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy also spoke on the occasion. He defended the coalition government's flagship farm loan waiver scheme. "We decided to waive loans worth Rs 45,000 crore. But Modi claimed that this was a lollypop scheme and that it had not benefited anybody, but I want to tell you that 44 lakh people are benefiting,” he said.
Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Dinesh Gundu Rao and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also spoke at the rally which was attended by thousands of Congress and JD(S) supporters. All top leaders of the Congress and JD(S) were present at the rally which marks the beginning of the coalition's campaign.