Karnataka elections 2023: With the announcement of the schedule for the Karnataka Legislative Assembly elections, the crucial poll battle in the state officially began on Wednesday. This is one of the most crucial elections in the Southern region ruling state in the South- ahead of the Lok Sabha Election slated to take place in the first half of 2024. Karnataka is the only Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) ruling state in the south. The results will, by and large, show the mood of people in the region ahead of the General Election.
The southern state will go to polls on May 10 and the counting of votes is scheduled for May 13. The EC announced that the date for nominations would be April 13 and the last date for filing nominations would be on April 20.
How's poll battle looks alike
Like 2018, the election battle is three-cornered- BJP Vs Congress Vs JD(S). In the last election, Karnataka witnessed a hung assembly which resulted in a surprising coalition between Congress and JD(S) and the grand old party despite having more numbers the junior party gave the CM post to JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy. The coalition government did not last for a long time. Congress-JD(S) government collapsed on July 23, 2019. BJP's stalwart BS Yediyurappa played a key role in toppling the government and he successfully turned the tables of state politics. 16 rebel legislators, including 13 of the Congress and 3 of the JD(S) destablished the government after resigning from the assembly pushing the government into a minority in 2019. Karnataka Assembly witnessed some unprecedented and awkward scenarios in which Karnataka BJP chief Yediyurappa and about 100 other MLAs staged a night-long sit-in at Vidhana Soudha. Dramatic pictures of Yediyurappa sleeping on the floor went viral on social media. Congress-JD(S) termed it BJP's infamous 'Operation Lotus'. After wresting power from the Congress-JD(S), Yediyurappa became CM again. Since then, JD(S) and Congress parted ways. This election too they don't show any interest in forming a pre-poll alliances.
A neck-to-neck fight between BJP and Congress
Despite the presence of a third player JD(S) which has 30 MLAs in the 224-member assembly, the fight seems between two arch-rivals Congress and BJP. Congress looks confident in the backdrop of mounting corruption charges against BJP leaders and Yediyurappa, not in the CM race. The 'Yediyurappa' factor was instrumental in the blossoming lotus in the southern state. It was Yediyurappa who dominated the very influential 'Lingayat community'. Even in 2019, Congress-JD(S) MLAs switched sides just because of Yediyurappa. BJP's poster boy Yediyurappa is missing in this election which is a big disadvantage for the ruling party and a big advantage for opposition parties. Though Yediyurappa is campaigning for the party, it is unlikely current leadership under BS Bommai will make the same magic.
Congress and BJP both parties are playing emotional cards. Congress stalwart and former CM Siddaramaiah announced that this would be his last election and on the other hand, Yediyurappa had also declared his retirement from electoral politics ahead of assembly elections. Both leaders are trying to influence voters citing their last inning.
The ruling party already invoked religious cards by inviting hardliner Hindutva faces- Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his UP counterpart Yogi Adityanath to Karnataka. Sarma intentionally invoked 'Madarssa issue' while addressing a public rally in Belgavi. Sarma claimed that he has closed 600 madrassas and intends to close all madrassas because he wants schools, colleges and universities. BJP government already banned 'hijab' in the educational institute in the state which was upheld by Karnataka High Court. The 'Hijab' and another communal issue Mysore king 'Tipu Sultan' rows help BJP polarise voters in the state.
When Yediyurappa suddenly resigned handing over his reign to Bommai it was claimed by the Opposition that he bowed due to corruption charges against his government. Even under Bommai's leadership, things have not changed. Corruption allegations kept hounding the Bommai government. State minister KS Eshwarappa had to tender his resignation over his alleged role in the suicide of contractor Santosh Patil who had accused Eshwarappa and his associates of “demanding a commission of 40 per cent”. Congress cashed the issue and launched “PayCM 40% accepted here” campaign, a QR code with the face of CM Bommai, on the lines of the Paytm QR code payment gateway. Recently, BJP MLA K Virupakshappa Madal’s son was in news after a whooping Rs 6 crore in cash was recovered from his residence in Bengaluru. Such incidents weakened BJP's positioning in the state. However, Congress state chief DK Shivakumar also facing corruption charges in National Herald Case. And in a recent viral video clip in which he is seen throwing cash during a road show also drew fire from BJP.
Congress and its infighting
It seems that Congress is in an advantageous situation in the state citing corruption charges against the BJP government but the infighting between two Congress stalwarts is well known. And this may hurt Congress' electoral fortune.
In recent times, the Modi-led Central government launched several big development projects, including the Terminal 2 of Bengaluru's Kempegowda International Airport construction and others. As BJP so far successfully played the 'Modi card', it is speculated that Narendra Modi will be the face of the election and his relentless rallies may change the game like Gujarat election.
Lastly, it is always voters who take the final shots. voters in the democratic setup are the biggest game-changers. It is interesting to see whether people continue with the saffron party or resort to a change ahead of the General Election.
Also read- Who will win Karnataka: Factors that will decide fate of 2023 assembly election in state