EC sounds poll bugle, Karnataka braces for high-pitched triangular contest

The Election Commission of India announced that the election to the 224-member Karnataka Assembly will take place on May 10.

Karnataka Election 2023 | Karnataka Election Live Voting |
Karnataka Election 2023 Voting Live: Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar (L), Chief Minister of Karnataka Basavaraj Bommai (R).

Voting for the 224-member Karnataka Legislative Assembly will take place on May 10, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar announced on Wednesday. The counting of votes will take place on May 13. The last date for making nominations is April 20, while candidates can withdraw nominations till April 24, the CEC, accompanied by two commissioners, Anup Chandra Pandey and Arun Goel, said at a press briefing today.

The term of the 224-member Karnataka Legislative Assembly ends on May 24, 2023.

With the announcement of dates, the rich southern state is all set to see a pitched political campaign, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking a re-run in the state with party heavyweights, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, campaigning in the state, while Opposition Congress tries to corner the BJP over corruption charges. The third party which can emerge as a game-changer is the former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda-led party the Janata Dal (Secular).

The JD(S), which joined hands with the Congress to form a government in state, has decided to contest the elections alone this time. Notably, the Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao-led Bharat Rashtra Samithi has described the JD(S) as its “natural ally”, and has thrown its weight behind it.

Of the 224 seats, there are 119 MLAs of the BJP, Congress has 75 and the JD(S) has 28 seats.

The saffron party is leaving no stone unturned to retain power in the state, with the Basavaraj Bommai government increasing the reservation given to the politically influential Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities, but scrapping a separate quota for Muslims.

Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the previous government led by Congress had given reservations to the Muslim community for political gains, and was not constitutionally valid, as there was no provision in the Constitution to give reservations based on religion.

Not just this, the BJP government has also asked companies to give preference to Kannadigas, and had warned that those companies which do not will not be eligible for incentives.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his recent visit to the poll-bound state in March, also laid the foundation stones of projects worth around Rs 16,000 crores, as well as inaugurated the ambitious 10-lane Bengaluru – Mysuru expressway built around a cost of Rs 8,480 crore. He had also inaugurated IIT Dharwad.

Meanwhile, Congress has kept up its offensive against the BJP over corruption charges. Following the poll schedule announcement, Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Council, BK Hariprasad, on Wednesday called the saffron party the “mother of corruption” in the country.

“BJP is the mother of corruption in the country. It does not believe in development programs but in the purchasing of MLAs,” he said, as quoted by ANI.

Meanwhile, Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar said that the 2023 Karnataka election will be for a “corruption-free” state.

The Congress, meanwhile, has released the first list of candidates with 124 names for the upcoming elections. Former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has been named from his family pocket borough of Varuna, while Karnataka PCC president D K Shivakumar will contest his traditional seat of Kanakapura.

Priyank Kharge, the son of Congress president Mallikarujun Kharge, has been fielded again from the seat he won last time, Chitapur (SC) in the Kalaburagi region.

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First published on: 29-03-2023 at 14:00 IST