Karnataka election on May 12: Countdown to polls that will set tone for 2019

It is likely to largely be a two-way contest in the state between BJP and Congress, with a possibility of JD(S) getting to play kingmaker in case of a tie.
Karnataka election on May 12: Countdown to polls that will set tone for 2019
Karnataka election on May 12: Countdown to polls that will set tone for 2019

The Election Commission of India on Tuesday announced that the highly anticipated Assembly Elections in Karnataka will be held in a single phase on May 12. The results will be announced on May 15, the Election Commission announced.

The date of notification is April 17, and the last date of nomination is April 24. Last date for withdrawal of nominations is May 12, and the date of counting is May 15. 

The Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat announced on Tuesday that the Model Code of Conduct will be in effect immediately. "Eco-friendly material should be used for all propaganda exercise. Use of loud speakers will be regulated so that people can sleep at night," the CEC said.

The election is crucial for both the Congress and the BJP. For the Congress, Karnataka is the only large state where it still holds power since the saffron rout following the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The results of this Assembly Election will decide their future.

In fact, since the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014, it has dislodged the Congress in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Assam and Manipur, while also winning the state elections held in Uttar Pradesh last year. 

For the BJP, which has no presence in the south so far, this is an opportunity to break in.

The tenure of the current Siddaramaiah-led government ends on May 28 and a new House has to be in place by then. Results of the elections in the state could be vital in setting the tone for the Lok Sabha elections due in 2019.

The ruling Congress government and the opposition BJP have been embroiled in a bitter war of words in the last few months, with allegations of communal politics and large-scale corruption dominating rally speeches by political leaders from both parties.

Like in 2013, the polls are primarily poised to be a three-horse race between the ruling Congress, and opposition BJP and the JD(S). Both the BJP and the JD(S) managed to win 40 seats each last time. The Congress had emerged the winner with 121 seats, and formed the majority government on its own.

The last major election in the state was the Lok Sabha election in 2014, in which PM Narendra Modi stormed to power at the Centre. The BJP had then won 17 seats in Karnataka, with the Congress settling for only nine seats and the JD(S) managing a meagre two seats.

Despite multiple defections from the JD(S) ranks, political analysts are refusing to write the obituary of the party led by former PM HD Devegowda. However, many are of the opinion that the best possible result for the party can be to become the kingmaker in case both the BJP and Congress fail to hit the 113 mark.

The campaigns

The BJP is carrying out a high voltage campaign attacking the Congress government for a perceived lack of 'development'. Projecting former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa as the Chief Ministerial candidate, the party held Parivartana Yatra rallies to mobilise party cadres ahead of the elections and attacked the ruling Congress with corruption allegations.

The Congress has promptly given back in kind, pointing out Yeddyurappa’s corruption allegations.

The BJP is also banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's influence to sway the elections in their favour. Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have made several visits to the state to address rallies in the past few months.

Meanwhile, the Congress campaign to retain power has been driven by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who has been stressing on his government's welfare schemes. The party has also repeatedly looked to push the 'Communalism vs Secularism' narrative through his speeches over the last few months.

All India Congress Committee President Rahul Gandhi has also made his presence felt in the state by addressing rallies in coastal Karnataka, north Karnataka and Old Mysore regions but was primarily limited to a role of a mascot. 

The ruling government's decision to recommend a separate religion tag and confer minority status to Lingayats is expected to unsettle the electoral mechanics, especially in the crucial Mumbai-Karnataka region of the state.

The JD(S) jumped ahead of its rivals by becoming the first party to announce its list of candidates.The party has also signed a pre-poll alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and has shared a dais with its leader Mayawati during its election rallies in Karnataka.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will be contesting in Karnataka for the first time after it announced 18 candidates contesting in Bengaluru and Hubli/Dharwad region. The party will face competition from other newcomers including the All India Mahila Empowerment Party (AIMEP) started by Nowhera Shaik and Bharatiya Janashakti Congress started by former police officer Anupama Shenoy.

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