Karnataka will march to the polling booths on 10 May to elect its 16th Legislative Assembly. The results will be out on 13 May, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced in New Delhi on Wednesday, 29 March.
“The polling for all the 224 Assembly seats in Karnataka will be held in a single phase on 10 May and the results will be declared on 13 May,” Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar announced.
“The gazette notification will be issued on 13 April. The last date for filing nominations is 20 April and they could be withdrawn on or before 24 April,” he said.
The ECI said Karnataka has 5.21 crore eligible voters. “Of the total electorate, 2.62 crore are men, 2.59 crore women, and 4,699 are third gender,” Kumar said.
The code of conduct has come into effect in the state with the ECI announcing the poll date.
Festival of democracy
Karnataka has 9.17 lakh first-time voters. It also has 16,976 voters aged above 100, and 12.15 lakh others over 80, up 32.5 percent from 2018.
“The first-time voters are between the age group of 18 to 19 years. For the first time, we are also allowing those who turn 18 on 1 April 2023 to excise their franchise,” Kumar said.
“A total of 58,282 polling stations will be set up. Of the total polling stations, 24,063 are in urban and 34,219 are in rural areas. Special polling booths will be set up for women and the physically challenged,” he said while expressing concern over the poor turnout in urban areas.
Karnataka has 5.55 lakh physically-challenged voters, an increase of 150 percent from 2018. .
In the previous election, the voting percentage was 72.13 percent, up 1.9 percent from 2013. In 2013, the Karnataka Assembly polls were held in a single phase on 5 May. The voter turnout was 70.23 percent.
The Congress gained a decisive majority winning 122 seats, while the BJP and JD(S) won 40 seats each. Siddaramaiah took oath as the 22nd Chief Minister of Karnataka on 13 May, 2013.
In 2018, the Assembly polls was on 12 May. The polls were postponed in Jayanagar and Rajarajeshwari Nagar segments due to various reasons.
The BJP emerged as the single-largest party, winning 104 seats, while the Congress could manage only 80. The JD(S) won 37 seats.
However, the state witnessed three chief ministers during the past five years: JD(S)’s HD Kumaraswamy, and the BJP’s BS Yediyurappa and Basavaraj Bommai.
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The heat is on
All three major political parties in the state, the BJP, Congress and JD(S), have completed their first round of campaigning, which started six months ago.
Despite facing corruption charges and an anti-incumbency wave, the BJP has launched various public outreach programmes, including the Vijay Sankalpa Rath Yatre and Booth Sankalpa Abhiyan, in all the 224 Assembly segments.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Ministers Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP national president JP Nadda and other central leaders have spearheaded the campaign in the state.
To consolidate its Hindutva vote bank, senior leaders, including BJP national general secretary CT Ravi and Malleswaram MLA Dr CN Ashwath Narayan, have invoked a Savarkar vs Tipu Sultan narrative.
They also stated that the contest is between the ideologies of these two people.
Additionally, in a bid to woo the influential Vokkaligas and Lingayats, the BJP government increased the reservations of these two communities by taking away the four percent reservation Muslims have been enjoying.
The pontiffs of the respective communities have welcomed the BJP government’s move.
Meanwhile, the Congress, JD(S) and other political parties condemned the move, terming it unconstitutional and a conspiracy to create communal tension.
Modi on campaign trail
During the past four months, Prime Minister Modi visited Karnataka at least seven times and covered almost all regions, excluding the coastal region.
Modi has either inaugurated or laid the foundation stones for projects worth about ₹40,000 crore. The major projects are Jal Jeevan Mission, national highway projects and the inauguration of Shivamogga airport and the 13.71-km metro rail stretch between Whitefield and KR Puram.
The frequent visit of Modi and Shah has boosted the BJP’s confidence ahead of the elections.
The Congress, too, is confident of winning the polls, with recent surveys indicating an anti-incumbency wave in Karnataka,.
The Congress under the leadership of Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah and KPCC president DK Shivakumar took out the Prajadhwani Yatre – public outreach programme – in over 125 assembly seats.
The party also announced four poll guarantee promises: Gruha Jyothi, 200 units of free power per month for all households, Gruha Laxmi Yojna that provides ₹2,000 per month to every woman head of families, Anna Bhagya, 10 kilograms of free rice for every member in Below Poverty Line (BPL) families and Yuva Nidhi, ₹3,000 and ₹1,500 financial assistance to unemployed graduates and diploma holders, respectively, for two years.
The party also released a separate manifesto for Kalyana Karnataka, promising an annual allocation of ₹5,000 crore for the overall development of the state.
Congress leaders AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, AICC general secretaries Priyanka Gandhi, Randeep Singh Surjewala and others took part in massive poll rallies across Karnataka this year.
JD(S) aims to do better
Aiming to win power independently, the JD(S), the regional party, is throwing in everything at its disposal in the poll arena.
To reach voters, the JD(S) has launched the Pancharatna Ratha Yatra.
It made five poll promises, including completing the major irrigation projects such as Upper Krishna Project, economic assistance scheme for families of farmers, waving off loans of women self-help groups, setting up English and Kannada medium schools on a par with private schools in every gram panchayat.
The yatra covered over 90 Assembly segments. JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy is leading the yatra.
Congress, JD(S) announce first list
The Congress and JD(S) has released their first lists of candidates for 124 and 93 Assembly seats, respectively.
The BJP had said that it would announce the candidates only after the poll date is announced. “The first list of the candidates is likely to be released in a week or two, ” a party source told South First.
“The Congress will release its second list after 30 March,” KPCC chief Shivakumar said.
The first list included the names of Siddaramaiah, who will be contesting from Varuna, Shivakumar from Kanakapura, former Union minister KH Muniyappa from Devanahalli (SC), and Dr G Paramaeshwar from Koratagere.
The party claimed that it would give tickets to around 95 percent of the incumbent MLAs.
Going by the JD(S)’s first list, HD Kumaraswamy will be contesting from Chanapatana, his son Nikhil Kumaraswamy from Ramanagara, and Bandeppa Kashempur from Bidar South.
The second list will be released at the earliest, party sources said.
The Aam Aadmi Party, Social Democratic Party of India (considered to be the political wing of the banned Popular Front of India), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and other small parties, too, have released their first list of candidates.