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Karnataka polls: Startline Ballari for Rahul Gandhi; Why the district is important

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    Vijayanagar (translates to 'the city of victory' in Kannada) in Ballari district is where Rahul Gandhi will launch his party's official campaign for Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018 on Saturday. The President of the AICC will tour Hyderabad-Karnataka region on his four-day trip to poll-bound Karnataka and the starting line of his tour is Ballari- the district which became the root cause of Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) undoing in Karnataka thanks to the illegal mining scam.

    Rahul Gandhi

    Rahul Gandhi will land at Jindal airstrip in Ballari, the same place where Sonia Gandhi had landed in 1999 to file nomination papers for her maiden Lok Sabha election. The Congress will launch its official election campaign from Ballari with Rahul Gandhi touring Hospet, Koppal, Yadgir, Kalburgi and concluding the same at Bidar. The choice of Ballari to kickstart the campaign is interesting.

    Why Congress chose Ballari to kickstart its campaign?

    While Chief Minister Siddaramaiah toured the state to promote his government under "Navakarnataka Nirmana Yatra", State Congress Chief Dr G Parameshwara toured the constituencies that the Congress had lost in the previous assembly election. Saturday's launch is the party's official election campaign. The Congress had chosen to kickstart its campaign from Ballari- the district that led to the downfall of BJP in Karnataka.

    Sonia Gandhi's maiden electoral victory

    Rahul Gandhi will land at the same airstrip that his mother Sonia Gandhi had landed at in 1999. In her first venture into electoral politics, Sonia Gandhi had chosen to contest from Ballari parliamentary constituency alongside Amethi. Ballari brought Sonia Gandhi her first victory in electoral politics. She won both seats and chose to represent Amethi. In Ballari, Sonia Gandhi defeated none other than BJP veteran Sushma Swaraj.

    Read | Gujarat elections: Temple visits by Rahul Gandhi, soft Hindutva on display

    BJP's undoing in Karnataka

    Allegations of largescale corruption, scams and illegal mining by Janardhana Reddy and his family - infamously referred to as the 'Reddy Brothers' in Ballari became the BJP's undoing in Karnataka. B S Yeddyurappa's government came tumbling down after the Lokayukta unearthed large-scale illegal mining. Not only did the BJP suffer massive loss of face and became a victim of public ire, Yeddyurappa became the first Chief Minister in Karnataka to be jailed over allegations of nepotism and corruption. Scams that were mined out of Ballari led to the Congress returning to power in Karnataka after a decade's hiatus.

    'Bellary Chalo': Siddaramaiah's walk against corruption

    Sensing opportunity to attack the then BJP government, the Congress launched 'Bellary Chalo'- a 350 km Padayatra led by now Chief Minister Siddaramaiah against corruption and misrule in 2010. The colourful dance of Siddaramaiah with a Veeragaase sword became etched in the memory of Karnataka voters. The yatra did wonders for the Congress by setting the public mood in its favour. The walk started from Bellary- the place Congress deemed the den of BJP's misrule. The yatra also positioned Siddaramaiah as a force to reckon with.

    With temple, dargah, mutt and Lingayat shrines visit right on top his priority list, Rahul Gandhi will also address about six rallies, take out bus yatra and hold talks with tribal communities, farmers andbusiness communities during his visit.

    Karnataka Assembly Election dates
    Date of notification April 17
    Last date to file nominations April 24
    Last date to withdraw nominations April 27
    Date of polling May 12
    Date of counting May 15

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