Bengaluru: Prime minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi took Karnataka election campaigning to a feverish pitch on Thursday and launched scathing attacks against each other ahead of the May 12 voting to elect a new government in the state.
The two political heavyweights, pitted against each other for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, addressed a number of rallies in the state.
While Modi played a nationalism card and accused the Congress of promoting only one family, Gandhi took a swipe at him for his "personal attacks" that "doesn't behove" of a person holding a high office.
Modi alleged that the Congress had insulted the Indian Army by questioning the truth behind 2016 surgical strikes against terrorists in Pakistan.
"After surgical strikes, our army chief was called a goon by the Congress. I want to ask you, in our country, has even an uneducated person committed the sin of calling our brave soldiers goons.
"A newspaper said that Pakistan had to remove casualties on their side in trucks after the surgical strikes. This was the bravery our soldiers showed and the Congress said 'Modiji show us the evidence of this'. Do you need evidence?"
He said the Congress was spreading "lies" by accusing the BJP of being anti-Dalit, anti-Muslim and anti-women.
"We made a Dalit, the president of India, gave the country its first woman defence minister. They spread lies that we are from the Hindi belt and have nothing to do with the south. But our vice president is a south Indian."
He said the BJP gave India a Muslim president in A P J Abdul Kalam and the Congress could not even deliver on making its senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge, the chief minister - as promised in the last Assembly election.
"The Congress is seeking votes of Dalits. Khargeji is a big leader of the Congress. In the last election, the Congress promised they will make him the chief minister. But he was sidelined. See, how they misled the Dalits."
Gandhi, who has been at the receiving end of Modi's salvos during BJP's poll campaign in Karnataka, said the prime minister's personal attacks implied he had no answers to the issues raised by him.
He questioned his silence over the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal and fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi who defrauded the Punjab National Bank of thousands of crores of rupees.
"There should be truth in the words that come out of the prime minister's mouth. There should be some weight in his words."
He said Modi had promised to deposit Rs 15 lakh each in poor citizens' bank accounts but didn't do it.
Gandhi said Modi also promised two crore jobs to the youth every year and higher minimum support price to farmers but he did none of this.
"Then what does he actually do? He helps only 15 persons. He helps the Reddy brothers (Janardhana, Karunakara and Somashekara Reddy) and wants to field them in the elections."
Gandhi said Modi had little to speak about Karnataka, its farmers and youths, and therefore he was resorting to personal attacks against him which "will not make any difference" to him.
"Modiji has very little to speak in this elections. He cannot speak about farmers because he neither waived off their loans nor provided suitable MSP.
"He cannot speak of education, healthcare or developmental issues because the state's Congress government has performed excellently on all fronts. So he is resorting to personal attacks on me. But this does not behove of a prime minister of India."
He added since Modi was the prime minister of India "I will not launch a personal attack against him".
The 47-year-old Congress leader asked Modi why he remained silent when Nirav Modi fled the country with thousands of crores of rupees of public money and on BJP chief Amit Shah's son Jay Shah's firm allegedly registering windfall profits after the BJP took power at the Centre in 2014.
"Why is Modiji silent on this? He has made fun of me but has not answered my questions."