BENGALURU: Congress president Rahul Gandhi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “finished” the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and was, in fact, targeting the weak and the poor across India.

Gandhi, who is reworking the Dalit-Lingayat dominant route taken by BJP president Amit Shah in central Karnataka last week, addressed a rally in the reserved constituency of Holalkere in Chitradurga district ahead of the May 12 assembly polls. The BJP is said to be planning to give their party ticket here to a popular local Dalit pontiff, Madara Chennaiah swami, whom Shah met last week. Gandhi, however, did not meet him.

“Congress passed the SC/ST Act. But look at all the BJP ruled states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh. Dalits and Adivasis are being crushed and killed. Modiji has finished the SC/ST Act. He wants India’s poor to stay poor and weak,” Gandhi told the crowd.

He began his speech in a combative manner — much like the way Shah and Modi do by asking the crowd: “Will the BJP lose? Tell me loudly.” And the crowd roared: “Yes.”

Gandhi later visited the topmost pontiff of the Lingayat religion, Shivakumara Swami of the Siddaganga mutt at Tumakuru, whom Shah had also visited last week. The Lingayats have supported the BJP in the last three decades. The mutt, however, has formally welcomed the new religion notified by the Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka.

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Gandhi, in an indirect reference to BJP’s criticism that Siddaramaiah had divided the Lingayats and Hindus by endorsing the minority religion tag for the former, said it was the PM who was dividing the country along religion, caste, region and language lines. “He crushes and kills whoever is weak. Modi Ji and RSS are now trying to invade Karnataka. They want one though, one culture for the entire country. Every citizen of Karnataka is threatened by this,” he said.

The Congress president further said that the people of Karnataka now had to choose between those who told the truth and those who lied. “Show me one truth in any of the speeches that Modiji has made in the past five or seven years. And then listen to my speeches. I have not made promises like I will put Rs 15 lakh into your account. Whatever I have promised, I have done it,” he explained.

He quoted 12th-century poet-philosopher Basavanna, who is considered the patron of the Lingayat religion. “Basavanna said nudidante nade (do what you say you will). Modiji folds his hands in front of Basavana, but insults him by lying. Our government fulfills all its promises. We work for the welfare and protection of the poor and the weak. The BJP works only for a few rich industrialists,” he said.

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