The Election Commission on Wednesday announced a three-phased polling for Karnataka amid mixed reaction from political parties.
Counting of votes will take place on May 25 in the southern state where the Congress plans to stall BJP from making its first determined bid to come to power. The presence of former prime minister HD Deve Gowda's JD (S) and BSP threatens to make the contest multi-cornered and add to the confusion for the 224-member House.
According to Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalswami, 89 constituencies will go to polls in the first phase on May 10, 66 seats on May 16 and 69 seats on May 22. The model code of conduct will come into force immediately, he said. Elections are also due in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Mizoram.
This year's elections would set the stage for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa. Given this, the Karnataka polls could have a huge impact on the morale of the parties in the fray, particularly the Congress that is struggling to put aside the setbacks it has faced in Gujarat, Himachal, Punjab and Uttarakhand.
While the BJP has welcomed the EC's announcement, the Congress expressed unhappiness with the dates, saying the Commission has shown "great hurry" in declaring the schedule.
Asserting that the party is ready for elections, Prithviraj Chavan, AICC general secretary in charge of Karnataka said, "The electoral rolls of all the districts have not been published yet. The President's rule (ends on May 19) needs to be extended.Why did they have to announce the schedule in such a great hurry?"
The BSP had earlier written to the EC expressing concern that about 10 lakh Dalits and STs in north Karnataka district (who migrate to neighbouring areas and states for temporary employment) would be left out of the poll process as their names are not on the voters' list.
The polls could not have come at a more awkward time for the Congress that finds itself in a bind over BJP's attempt to make an emotive issue out of the Hogenak-kal controversy. "We want the PM to exert influence on Tamil Nadu to wait till a new government is in office," said SM Krishna.