Karnataka remains a beacon of hope for the Congress. It will be a make or break elections for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who believes Congress will win 18-20 of the 28 seats in Karnataka on the back of his popular schemes introduced last year. Party insiders are willing to wager on 15 seats.
Failure to outscore the BJP in the seat tally and losses in his own strongholds are expected to cripple Siddaramaiah’s authority and is likely to leave him open to attacks from rivals within the party.
The BJP, which won 19 seats in 2009, is banking on the Modi factor to bring in the numbers and overcome the anti-incumbency it faced in the 2013 assembly polls.
One of the most closely watched seats has been Bangalore South where the contest between five-time MP H N Ananth Kumar and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani is expected to throw a close result.
All eyes are also on Chikaballapur where UPA’s oil and natural gas minister Veerappa Moily is locked in a three-way contest with Janata Dal Secular’s H D Kumaraswamy and the BJP’s B N Bache Gowda. The result is expected to throw a surprise.
Former BJP chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, facing corruption charges, is up against film star Shivaraj Kumar’s wife and former chief minister Bangarappa’s daughter Geetha Shivaraj Kumar. He is expected to have an easy path to victory. Yeddyurappa hopes a victory for himself and a loss for Ananth Kumar will help him reassert his authority in the BJP.
Former prime minister H D Devegowda is the only guaranteed win for JDS in Hassan.
Another JDS candidate C S Puttaraju can however emerge as the dark horse in his battle with 31-year-old film star Ramya in Mandya.
The performance of the Aam Aadmi Party and its candidates, particularly former Infosys CFO V Balakrishnan, will be closely watched by urban voters.
The coastal constituencies of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi Chikmagalur will stand testimony to the Modi effect in Karnataka as two not so popular BJP candidates battle political veterans from the Congress — Janardhan Poojary and Jayaprakash Hegde.
The fortunes of three other Congress veterans — Mallikarjun Kharge, Dharam Singh and K H Muniyappa — are being tested in Gulbarga, Bidar and Kolar respectively.