Last updated on: May 11, 2018 at 11:43 pm IST
New Delhi, May 11: After weeks of high-voltage campaigning, which saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi often trade charges, Karnataka will vote Saturday to elect a new government.
Seen as a precursor to polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh later this year, the ruling Congress attempts to retain the only large state other than Punjab and the BJP hopes to form the government in south India for the second time. The JD(S), fighting for political relevance, completes the three-cornered contest in Karnataka and may well play the kingmaker in the event of a hung assembly.
At least 4.96 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise Saturday from a field of almost 2,600 candidates. Election office sources told PTI that over 55,600 polling stations have been set up with auxiliary booths too. Over 3.5 lakh personnel will be on duty to ensure a free and fair poll.
The Congress also hopes to create history when results are announced on May 15 since no government has won a second term in Karnataka since 1985. Then, the Janata Dal under Ramakrishna Hegde had retained power.
A day before voting, Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was confident. “I am often told history is against me as no sitting government in Karnataka has been re-elected in a long time. But we are here to create history and not to obey it,” he tweeted.
In the 2013 elections, the Congress had wrested power from the first BJP government in south India. Then, the BJP government was marred after chief minister B S Yeddyurappa was sent to jail on corruption charges and eventually quit the BJP to form his own party. In the elections that followed, the Congress riding on high BJP anti-incumbency had swept to power with more than 120 seats. The BJP and JD(S) won 40 seats each.
But in 2018 and in power at the Centre, the BJP has spared little effort to ensure history is repeated.
Calling it “mission 150”, BJP president Amit Shah Thursday predicted his party would win over 130 constituencies. In its favour is the return of Yeddyurappa as the chief ministerial candidate and with him the powerful Lingayat community, which accounts for almost 14 per cent of the electorate.
While Modi addressed more than 20 rallies in the state over the last two weeks, Rahul Gandhi helmed the Congress campaign. Four current and former chief ministers are in the fray, including Siddramaiah, contesting from Badami and Chamundeshwari, Yeddyurappa from Shikaripura, Kumaraswamy from Chennapatna and Ramanagara, and BJP’s Jagdish Shettar from Hubbali-Dharwad.
Polling will be held in 222 constituencies of the 224-member Assembly after elections in two constituencies were countermanded. In Jayanagara, following the death of BJP candidate and sitting MLA B N Vijaykumar and in Rajrajeshwari Nagar after the Election Commission said there is “definite inference” to suggest that efforts were made to induce voters. (Agencies)