Karnataka Assembly elections to be held on May 10, results on May 13

The Election Commission said that Karnataka has a total of 5.21 crore voters, with 2.62 crore men and 2.59 crore women and 58,282 polling booths.
Collage of Basavaraj Bommai, Yediyurappa, Kumaraswamy, DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah
Collage of Basavaraj Bommai, Yediyurappa, Kumaraswamy, DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah
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Elections to the 224-member Karnataka Legislative Assembly will be held in a single phase on May 10 and the results will be declared on May 13, the Election Commission of India announced on Wednesday, March 29. The announcement means the Model Code of Conduct for the elections has come into force immediately. Speaking at a press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said that Karnataka has a total of 5.21 crore voters, with 2.62 crore men and 2.59 crore women. The state will have a total of 58,282 polling stations. The gazette notification will be issued on April 13. The last date for filing nominations will be April 20.

Since 2018, the Chief Minister’s post changed hands three times before finally resting with Basavaraj Bommai. The 2018 elections resulted in 104 seats for the BJP with 36.22% of the votes, 78 seats for the Congress with 38.04% of the vote and 37 seats for the JD(S) which got 18.36% of the votes. After no party managed to get a complete majority, the governor invited the BJP to form the government as the single largest party. The government fell on the third day with an emotional Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa submitting his resignation to the then Governor Vajubhai Vala. This brought HD Kumaraswamy’s JD(S)-Congress coalition government to power. But it collapsed after just over a year when 13 Congress, three JD(S) MLAs and one MLA from the Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janata Party resigned after shifting their loyalties to the BJP. Yediyurappa came back as the Chief Minister for a second time in July 2019 but failed to complete his term. Basavaraj Bommai was appointed as the Chief Minister.

The BJP, JD(S) and Congress continue to be hobbled in their war efforts by a range of internal issues. The Gowda family, which leads the JD(S), has been openly feuding over the candidature of Bhavani, wife of HD Revanna, with Kumaraswamy openly expressing his support for HP Swaroop, son of former MLA HS Prakash. The Congress has not announced its Chief Ministerial candidate and is hamstrung by the perennial rivalry between DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah. In the BJP, where Yediyurappa holds a much more diminished position today despite his considerable electoral influence, several top party leaders have been openly critical of the Lingayat leader's efforts to pass the baton to his son, BY Vijayendra.

The last decade has witnessed major churning in Karnataka among various marginalised social groups under the Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) categories, with each vying for a greater share in political power and public resources. Although the BJP held power for most of the last five years, it waited till the last moment to bring in major changes in Karnataka's reservation policy. During the final Assembly session in December 2022, the Bommai government passed a law to increase the total share for SCs from 15% to 17% in jobs and educational seats.

Amid growing criticism of the BJP for not implementing internal reservations for SCs, a group of prominent Madiga leaders joined the Congress last week. Right after this development, CM Bommai's cabinet passed an ordinance dividing the 17% for SCs into 6% for Madiga and allied groups; 5.5% for Holeya and allied groups; 4.5% for Touchables and 1% for other SC groups. The government also shifted Muslims from the OBC list to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category to make room for groups such as Panchamashali Lingayats and Vokkaligas who are agitating for a greater share in the OBC quota.

The Bommai government has been plagued with allegations of corruption with the Karnataka State Contractors Association alleging that across government departments, 40% commission of the total project worth had to be paid as a bribe to get the tenders and payments released. A slew of other corruption charges include private schools association alleging that bribes had to be paid for permissions, religious maths alleging corruption in granting funds and a BJP legislator recently arrested by Lokayukta on bribery charges.

The BJP’s term has been marked by frequent communal flare-ups with agitations over the wearing of hijabs in school classrooms and the exclusion of Muslim traders from temple fairs leading to tensions boiling over in the state. The protests over wearing the hijab in the classroom and the response from Hindu students and their backers in Hindutva organisations threatened to disrupt law and order in the state in 2022. At the same time, Muslim traders were excluded from temple fairs across Karnataka after Hindutva organisations seeking such bans were emboldened by the state government misapplying rules framed in 2002 to justify the ban.

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