Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018 Highlights: Schedule, Candidate Profiles & Star Campaigners of India's Most Crucial Poll of The Year
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala to decide fate of state politics, Congress Threatens to hold dharna If BJP is Called first. (Photo credits: PTI)

Right after the Election Commission of India announced the dates for Karnataka Assembly Elections on March 27, 2018, the three major parties pitted in the electoral battle - Indian National Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal (Secular) - have been aggressively campaigning in the state. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over as the face of the campaign for the BJP, Congress also got senior leaders involved in the fray, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ex-president of the party, Sonia Gandhi to actively campaign in the state.

In 2013 elections, the BJP lost to Congress, while the latter was also the ruling party at the Centre, with a margin of 73 seats.  For this election, BJP declared BS Yeddyurappa its Chief Ministerial candidate about a year ago. Yeddyurappa also served as the 19th Chief Minister of Karnataka. While the Congress’ candidate remains the incumbent Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and the Janata Dal (Secular) is yet to make an official announcement about their candidate, but the presumptive candidate is party chief H.D. Deve Gowda’s son H.D. Kumaraswamy.

As the 2018 Karnataka Assembly Elections is the current political hotcake, here is a comprehensive list of everything you should know about it:

Incumbent Chief Minister: Siddaramaiah (since 2013)

Party: Indian National Congress

Term ends: May 28, 2018

Important Dates:

Date of polling: May 12

Date of counting: May 15

Major National Parties Contending:

Bhartiya Janata Party

Indian National Congress

Janta Dal (Secular)

Important Numbers:

Constituencies: 224

Reservation: 173 – General, 36 – Scheduled Caste, 15 – Scheduled Tribe

Total Voters: 4,96,82,357

Total Polling Stations: 56,696

Candidates Contesting: 2,655

Chief Minister Candidate:

BJP: BS Yeddyurappa

Congress: Siddaramaiah

Janta Dal (Secular): Kumaraswamy (presumptive)

Overview of 2013 elections:

Congress emerged winner in the 2013 assembly elections in Karnataka and Siddaramaiah assumed power as the Chief Minister of the state.

The BJP lost to congress by a substantial margin. While the Congress won in 122 of 223 constituencies, BJP only won in 43.

In 2013, elections were conducted only in 223 out of 224 constituencies in the state after postponement of elections from the Periyapatna constituency following the death of its BJP candidate

Important constituencies:

Mangalore, Raichur, Bellary, Mysore, Bijapur North, Bijapur South, Udupi and Badami

Lingayat Votes:

In this year’s election, the Lingayat vote share is crucial in deciding the winning party. The incumbent Congress government has recommended to the Centre granting of a separate religious minority status to Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats. They account for 17 per cent of the state’s population.

Following States Reorganisation Act, 1956, Indian states got identified on linguistic lines. Since then, of the twenty Chief Ministers that came to power in Karnataka, eight of them have been from the Lingayat community. In the 2013 assembly elections, congress won 15% out of the 17% vote shares from the community.

Star Campaigners:

In April, BJP’s Shobha Karandlaje in a letter to the State Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar, mentioned a list of the party’s ‘star campaigners’ who would be campaigning for the Karnataka Assembly Elections. The biggest names in the list is of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also campaigned in Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh recently. The list also includes names of Union Ministers Sushma Swaraj, Smriti Irani, Nirmala Sitharaman, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal and actor turned politician Hema Malini.

While Congress has released a list of 40 star campaigners including names like Sonia Gandhi, party President Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Shashi Tharoor.

Criminal Candidates:

As per an analysis released by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) on May 6, 2018, 2,560 out of the 2,655 candidates have been analysed. Of which 391 candidates have a criminal record. As per the report, 83 of these are from BJP, 59 from Congress and 41 from Janata Dal (Secular).

Important Issues:

Apart from the Lingayat issue, some other crucial issues that will be a deciding factors for the voters in this election are:

Kannadiga Flag

The Siddaramaiah government has an edge in case of the Kannadiga flag since it has tried to get the yellow-red coloured flag the status of the official flag of the state. The Kannadiga flag is sensitive issue for the people of the state as they identify it with their Kannada identity and see it as a mark of pride of their history and culture.

Agrarian Crisis

As per reports, between April 2013 and November 2017, more than 3,500 farmers have committed suicide in the state. This tragedy has largegly highlighted the Congress-run government’s inability to manage and implement government policies favouring the farmers and will therefore be an important factor influencing the vote share in this election.

Corruption

Corruption is a major issue in Karnataka. According to a survey conducted by The Centre for Media Studies in 2017, Karnataka was declared the most corrupt state for accessing public services. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has also been alleged of corruption and violating the code of conduct of ministers by awarding his son’s company a tender to set up a pathology laboratory inside the premises of the government-owned super-specialty Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI). Prime Minister Narendra Modi also took a jibe at the CM by dubbing it as a ‘10 percent commission government’ during a recent rally. While BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa had to resign from his post as the Chief Minister of the state in 2011 following corruption charges.

With Narendra Modi being the face of Karnataka election campaigns, it is a close fight in the Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018. Some opinion polls predict a hung government while some are predicting a close fight between the BJP and Congress. While the BJP and JD(S) have formed coalition government in Karnataka in the past, the party’s chief and former Indian Prime Minister has clearly stated that he will not form a coalition with BJP this time.  It will be interesting to see who makes a cut in this assembly election amid so many crucial issues on the table and a cut-throat campaigning spree.