Virtually setting the ball rolling for next year's assembly elections in Karnataka, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today launched a scathing attack on the ruling BJP and asked her partymen to set aside individual ambitions and work together to bring it back to power.
"People want a change from the political corruption and the corruption of the BJP. And they want a change from the divisive communal politics of the BJP", she told the delegates of a Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee meeting here.
For so many reasons, the people were disenchanted with BJP, she said adding the so called "party with a difference" had been fully exposed and its "double standards" on corruption and political corruption are more than apparent to the people.
Gandhi said for the past so many years, the Congress had not been able to receive people's mandate in Karnataka for "many, many reasons including party's own weaknesses".
Congress is not able to convert people's goodwill into electoral success, she said.
Gandhi told the Congress leaders that individual ambition should not come in the way of the party's larger interests. Party must come first and the overriding objective must be to bring the party back to power.
On a rare visit to the state to rejuvenate the Congress which has been out of power for last six years, Gandhi participated in the 105th birthday celebrations of Siddaganga Math head Sri Sri Shivakumara Swami who has a large following among the dominant Lingayat community, in a bid to woo it back to the Congress.
Former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa belongs to the Lingayat community.
In a blistering attack against the BJP, Gandhi said its Government had betrayed the mandate of the people and destroyed all what Karnataka stood for and is known for.
The BJP government had "scant respect" for rule of law, she said, noting that the post of Lokayukta had remained vacant in Karnataka for almost an year in contrast to UPA's determination to enact a strong Lokpal bill which was "held up in Rajya Sabha by the BJP".
Gandhi said the recent victory of the party in the Udupi-Chikmagalur Loksabha bypoll very much reflected the desire of the people for a change.
In the byelection, party workers and senior leaders worked together after a long time, she said.
"This victory has shown when our entire party organisation works in unity, nobody can defeat us. Nobdody can defeat us", she said.
Noting that the victory of late Indira Gandhi from the then Chikmagalur constituency in 1978 helped revive the Congress, she said if all the party workers and leaders work together, this (recent) victory would help its revival in Karnataka.
Senior leaders S M Krishna, Mallikarjun Kharge, M Veerappa Moily, Siddaramaiah, Motamma, KPCC President G Parameshwara and Oscar Fernandes were among those present.
Gandhi said the party leaders must resolve today to work together with the junior workers. "That is the only way we will be able to regain trust of the people and bring back the party to power in Karnataka".
She said during the seven years of the UPA government, Karnataka received an allocation of almost Rs 98,000 crore, which is more than what it got during the NDA regime.
The Congress-led state government then had to go before NDA ministers "like beggars to get what was their right" and BJP typically treated it as a political issue", she lamented.
Unlike this, she said, UPA Government did not make a differentiation between Congress and non-Congress governments at the state level as "we are serving the people of India".
Gandhi, who also earlier visited drought-hit Nagasamudra village in Chitradurga district, said the problem of drought in Karnataka was quite visible and the UPA government would do all that is necessary.
But she stressed that it was necessary to exert pressure on the state government to implement drought-relief schemes and programmes.
Gandhi's visit was marred by a minor incident when a woman waved a black cloth at the mutt function demanding exclusive reservation for her Madiga Dandora community within the SC quota. She was whisked away from the venue by police.
Earlier, KPCC President G Parameshwara said, 123 of the 176 taluks had been declared drought-hit and crop loss estimated at over Rs 5,000 crore.
"We are in distress. We need help from the centre. Please help us", he told the UPA Chairperson.
At the Siddaganga Math function, Gandhi said nothing exemplifies India's diversity better than Karnataka, where people belonging to different regions, from different culture and speaking different languages, have lived together.
Gandhi said education should inculcate and promote values like secularism "so that we can stand up to the forces that seek to divide, whatever form they make take."
Gandhi lauded the 80-year-long service rendered by Shivakumara swamiji which she described as "in the cause of humanity".
She exhorted people to educate their children taking advantage of the law enacted by the government to provide for free and quality education to those aged 6 to 14.
"It is education that has led to the empowerment of weaker sections of society. Nevertheless, it is sad reality that so many of our country men and women face discrimination and live in poverty", she said.
On the occasion, the mutt pontiff was presented a cheque for Rs 105 lakh to mark his 105th birthday celebrations.
Earlier, Gandhi lit symbolically 105 lamps to mark the celebrations, which the gathering greeted with a thundering applause.
Shivakumara Swamiji in his address said peace should exist in the country and poverty should be eradicated.
"In spite of breath-taking developments in science and technology, people all over the world are yearning for peace in the face of terrorism, violence, strife, hunger and so many other ills", he said.