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A high-pitched poll battle is on in Karnataka where, anxious to return to power in the only south Indian state it has managed to form a government (the first time in 2008), the BJP is driving its campaign on the back of its pet theme of Hindutva.

Union minister Ananthkumar Hegde, who is rabidly anti-Muslim and had talked of changing the Constitution, is touring the state and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath is a star campaigner.

For the record, Adityanath did talk about some development issues. Taunted by Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah who asked him to use his visit to the state to pick up tips to check starvation deaths back home in UP, Adityanath retorted by referring to farmer suicides and deaths of honest officers in Karnataka.

Siddaramaiah, mocking Yogi Adityanath over reports of alleged starvation deaths in UP, on Sunday tweeted: “I welcome UP CM Shri @myogiadityanath to our state. There is a lot you can learn from us Sir. When you are here please visit a Indira Canteen & a ration shop. It will help you address the starvation deaths sometimes reported from your state.”

Yogi Adityanath tweeted a retort: “Thank you for the welcome @siddaramaiah ji. I heard number of farmers committing suicide in Karnataka was highest in your regime, not to mention the numerous deaths and transfer of honest officers. As UP CM I am working to undo the misery and lawlessness unleashed by your allies.”

According to national crime statistics, Karnataka records the third largest number of farm-related suicides in the country, next only to Maharashtra and Telangana.

Addressing a BJP rally earlier in the day, Adityanath accused Siddaramaiah of pushing development in the state by five years and also targeted Siddaramaiah for remembering his Hindu roots, “just as Congress president Rahul Gandhi went to temple after temple during the Gujarat election”.

He said, “Karnataka’s chief minister says that he is also a Hindu. It is the sight of our numbers that is reminding him of Hindutva. Like Rahul Gandhi, he is now realising he is a Hindu.”

But, said Adityanath, Siddaramaiah endorses beef eating and calling himself a Hindu will not suffice. “When the BJP government was there in Karnataka it had passed an anti-cow slaughter law, but the Congress revoked it,” he added.

Adityanath further slammed Siddaramaiah for the “deteriorating” law and order situation in the state and claimed that in five years 22 people affiliated to the RSS or the Sangh Parivar were killed. In contrast, making a claim belied by facts, Aditynatah said there were no instances of communal violence in 10 months in Uttar Pradesh since he took over as chief minister.

He also said the state needs to have the BJP in power while the party is ruling the country.

Karnataka elections are due before May this year and the BJP started work on its poll plank months ago by raking up Hindu-Muslim issues. Calling the Congress an anti-Hindu party, creating a controversy over Tipu Sultan Jayanti and issues of communal violence dominate the discourse. The BJP is anxious that when the state votes for the 224-seat assembly in April-May this year, the party gets another shot at power.

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