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Parties welcome Karnataka election dates, campaigns already at fever pitch

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has addressed eight rallies, BJP chief Amit Shah is on his fourth tour and Congress president Rahul Gandhi has completed four tours. JD(S) chief HD Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy are also travelling across the state.

india Updated: Mar 27, 2018 22:51 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Karnataka elections,election dates,Election Commission
BJP president Amit Shah collects food grains from a farmer’s family during a statewide door-to-door campaign ahead of Karnataka assembly elections at Doddabathi village in Davanagere on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)

The Election Commission might have announced election dates for Karnataka only on Tuesday but poll campaigning in the state is in full swing. All three political parties — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) — have launched statewide tours to drum up support.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and Congress president Rahul Gandhi have all visited the state. Modi has addressed eight rallies in the state, Shah is on his fourth tour and Gandhi has completed four tours of the state. JD(S) chief HD Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy are also travelling across the state.

“We are confident of winning a clear majority in the state,” said Shah, adding that his party was ready for the polls.

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said his party was expecting the announcement. “We felt the announcement could be made any time after March 23,” he said. The state goes to the polls on May 12 and results are out on May 15. The Congress is fighting to retain control of the only large state it is in power currently while the BJP is looking to make inroads into the south.

READ | Karnataka assembly elections on May 12: What’s at stake for Congress, BJP

The recent decision of the state government to recognise Lingayats and Veerashaiva-Lingayats (those who follow teachings of 12th century philosopher Basavanna) is expected to have a bearing on the polls, as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat, is said to command a significant chunk of supporters.

Meanwhile, there have been rumblings of dissent among all three parties’ members, with BJP president Amit Shah on Tuesday trying to mend differences between Yeddyurappa and senior leader KS Eshwarappa.

In the 2013 elections, Yeddyurappa and followers of the Reddy brothers of Ballari had broken away from the party, and contested against the BJP, which crashed from 110 seats in the 2008 elections to just 40 in 2013. This time, Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers have been brought back into the BJP fold.

The dispute over the Mahadayi river water has pit the Congress against the BJP, which rules both other states that are party to the issue — Goa and Maharashtra.

READ | Karnataka elections: Can Siddaramaiah repeat his bypoll success?

The Congress is banking on a slew of welfare schemes launched by the Siddaramaiah government. The BJP is banking on the alleged anti-Hindu orientation of the state government. It has also called the Congress government the most-corrupt ever.

The JD(S) has projected itself as the best alternative, with Kumaraswamy calling the previous BJP and Congress governments corrupt and inept. It is currently in an alliance with the Congress in the Bengaluru corporation, but Rahul Gandhi has attacked the party calling it the ‘B’ team of the BJP.

Political analysts said the JD(S) had the most at stake. “For that party it is a question of survival,” said Narendar Pani, faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies.

“If it does badly, it could be written off,” he added.

For the BJP, analysts said it will be a test of the Party’s claims of pan-India credentials. “While it is unclear how the Lingayats might vote, the BJP has the benefit of a very strong organisation. So, some Lingayats might continue to vote for it because of an emotional connect,” said Harish Ramaswamy, faculty at the Karnatak University in Dharwad.

About the Congress, Pani said, this would be a test to see if it can bounce back and a challenge to its national credentials.

First Published: Mar 27, 2018 22:51 IST