Karnataka Assembly elections will be held on May 12 and the results will be declared on May 15 , the Election Commission announced on Tuesday. Addressing the media, Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat said VVPAT machines, apart from EVMs, will be deployed in Karnataka. The elections for the 224-member Assembly will be a trial by fire for Rahul Gandhi, who is leading the campaign, while the BJP will look to form its 22nd government in the country. In the last election, turnout was recorded at 71.45 per cent.
With this announcement, the Model Code of Conduct has come into effect. In the 2013 Assembly elections, Congress stormed to power with 122 seats and cornered 36.6 per cent of the vote share, while the BJP won 43 seats. The HD Deve Gowda led Janata Dal (Secular) managed to secure victory in 40 seats and it remains to be seen if the party, which has been hobnobbing with the saffron party, forms a pre-poll alliance. Seven rebel JDS MLAs resigned from the state legislature on Saturday, a day after they voted for Congress candidates in the Rajya Sabha polls. They joined the Congress on Monday in the presence of Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress has decided to portray incumbent Chief Minister Siddaramaiah as its CM face, while the BJP has nominated former CM B S Yeddyurappa to be its chief ministerial candidate. The Karnataka elections are significant for the Congress, as it is one of its last bastions in the country. The Siddaramaiah-led government seems to have already cast the dice by recommending granting of a separate religious minority status to Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats — which account for nearly 17 per cent of the state’s population. The Lingayats have traditionally backed the BJP but the move may change equations.
The BJP, meanwhile, has put its entire machinery to work in order to oust Congress and party chief Amit Shah has paid several visits to the southern state since last November. Boosted by the impressive showing in the northeast, where it formed governments in Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya, the master tactician Shah will have his task cut out in the first of the major states that goes to elections this year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already addressed two rallies, where he launched a scathing attack on Siddaramaiah, calling his regime a “10 per cent government”.
Siddaramaiah has indicated that the 2018 assembly polls would “most likely” be his last election. He also hinted at contesting from Chamundeshwari constituency in Mysuru – the place that gave him ‘political rebirth’ – for the election. Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi has already made four trips to the state and placed the bet on his “soft Hindutva” approach to retain power in the state. He has visited the major temples in the state, including the influential Sringeri Mutt. It remains to be seen if the tactic, which paid rich dividends for the party in Gujarat (even though it did not win the state), works to Gandhi and Congress’ advantage. Moreover, the BJP’s recent defeat in the UP and Bihar bypolls will also boost its party workers morale.