**Bengaluru:** With just three days left, campaigning in the Karnataka Assembly elections reached a feverish pitch with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday launching a blistering attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Centre’s handling of the economy and accusing him of stooping low in his attacks on political rivals.
Singh and his party President Rahul Gandhi, who was campaigning in Kolar, also alleged that the government had collected Rs 10 lakh crore in taxes on petroleum products but refused to pass on the benefit of low international crude prices to the common man.
Under relentless attack from Modi and other BJP leaders, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramiah issued a notice of defamation against Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and BJP’s Chief Ministerial face B.S. Yeddyurappa for their attacks on him on corruption like “sidda rupiah government”.
On his part, Modi rejected the Congress accusation against his government of not creating enough jobs and claimed that several of its initiatives led to the creation of jobs in public and private sectors.
Addressing a press conference here, Singh said: “No Prime Minister in our country has used the Office of the Prime Minister to say things about his opponents that Modi has been doing day in and day out. It doesn’t behove a Prime Minister to stoop so low and it is not good for the country as a whole as well.”
He added: “Petrol and diesel prices in India are at a historic high. This is in spite of lower international crude oil prices because the Modi government chooses to levy excessive excise taxes.
“Instead of passing on the benefit of low prices to the people, the Central government has sought to punish our people,” the Congress leader said.
“During our (UPA government) tenure (2004-14), in the face of high crude oil prices, we cushioned the common man against their effects. Since the present government assumed power, the international oil prices declined 67 per cent, but petrol and diesel prices have increased 110 per cent,” he said.
Reeling out facts and figures, Singh, who had also been a finance minister, said the BJP-led NDA government had projected to earn over Rs 10 lakh crore through constant increase in taxes at the cost of the common man.
“We must demand answers as to what use this money was put to? A healthy economy requires a well-functioning banking sector. Neither banks are lending nor is the private sector borrowing to make new investments.”
The Modi government’s “lack of reasoning and analysis was affecting India and our collective future”, he said.
Manmohan Singh also railed against the government for not making good in terms of growth rate despite favourable international climate, something, he said, its predecessor had done despite facing “turbulent global conditions”.
He said the two avoidable blunders of the government – demonetisation and hasty implementation of the GST – had hurt the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector, resulting in loss of thousands of jobs.
“The economic mismanagement of the Modi government … is eroding the trust of the public in the banking sector.”
Rejecting the Congress accusation against his government of not creating enough jobs, Modi, in turn, held the Congress responsible for the unemployment situation and accused it of opposing technologies/initiatives like the EVMs and Aadhaar.
“With emphasis on public and private sectors, we are also focussing on personal sector for employment. The pace of work on the infrastructure projects has been increased,” Modi said in response to a query while addressing Bharatiya Janata Party Yuva Morcha ‘karyakartas’ through his NaMo app.
Modi said the country’s infrastructure sector was growing rapidly and added that without employing more people it was not possible to achieve this growth.
Modi said that due to government initiative, India had emerged as the best destination for foreign investment and this has been approved by various credit agencies.
“The Foreign Direct Investment in India has reached its highest level, which is consistently increasing,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that under the Mudra Yojana, loans of Rs 1.27 crore have been disbursed to the youth of Karnataka without any collateral.
Modi said that in the last few years, immense growth was seen in the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) accounts.
“Due to demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax, there has been a great change in the formal sector. Workers are getting proper benefits in the social sector. The figures of EPFO accounts prove that there has been growth in the formal sector,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter and attacked the BJP government accusing it of “loot” in the name of “fuel” by collecting Rs 10 lakh crore in taxes on petrol, LPG and diesel and not passing on the benefit of falling international crude price to the common people.
Gandhi shared a one minute forty two seconds long video on Twitter, saying “this video shows the truth about fuel prices under PM Modi”.
Siddaramaiah challenged Modi and BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate B.S. Yeddyurappa to an open debate with him.
“Modi is deliberately confusing Karnataka voters with his bombastic speeches on non-issues. All hot air and no substance. My contest is not with him. It is with Yeddyurappa,” tweeted Siddaramaiah.
“I challenge him to an open debate on issues on a single platform. Will he accept? Modi is also welcome,” he added.
Karnataka Assembly elections are scheduled for May 12.