K'taka polls: Intense campaigning for final phase

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Bangalore, May 19: Central and state leaders of the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) on Sunday toured parts of north Karnataka campaigning for their candidates for the May 22 Assembly balloting for 69 seats

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi addressed rallies in Bhalki in Bidar, Jamkhandi in Bagalkot and Belgaum, district headquarters of Belgaum district, and attacked the BJP for calling his party soft on terrorism. BJPP leader L K Advani told rallies in Hubli in Dharwad districts and Bijapur that the Congress had failed to contain terrorism and rising prices, and only his party could tackle these two problems. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP, who has been touring north Karnataka the past two days, challenged Congress leaders to say they would develop Karnataka on "the Gujarat model". He spoke at Gadag, Bijapur and Gulbarga.

BSP chief and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechury spoke at separate meetings in Gulbarga, while JD-S leader and former Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy addressed a rally in Dharwad. His father, JD-S president and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, took a break from campaigning and went to the hill shrine of Tirupati in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh to pray as he turned 76 on Sunday.

BJP leaders have been extensively touring north Karnataka as they perceive the party has established a strong presence there and aim to bag maximum seats from the region to gain a majority in the Assembly.

Balloting will take place May 22 for 69 seats in eight districts. Counting of votes is due on May 25.

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