Stakes high for BJP in Karnataka polls



The Karnataka assembly polls being held on May 10 is a triangular contest with the BJP hoping for another term and the Congress banking on the revolving door trend. The JDS, which dominates over 61 seats, may play spoiler

Former Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa was among the first to cast his vote in Shivamogga. BS Yediyurappa said he expects 75%-80% voters to support the BJP. “We will get absolute majority and will form the government. We will win 130-135 seats,” the veteran party leader said.

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said he is “very happy” the way his party conducted its campaign and the way people have responded to it. “I appeal to people to come and vote for the development of Karnataka,” Mr Bommai said.

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi urged people to vote in large numbers to build a progressive and a “40-per cent-commission-free” state.

Both parties have run a high-profile campaign with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding 19 public meetings and six roadshows, and Rahul Gandhi camping in the state for 12 days.

In the run-up to the election, the ruling BJP – which is facing multiple corruption allegations — covered all its bases, including tweaking the four per cent quota to Muslims, which it hopes will bring in the Lingayat, Vokkaliga, Scheduled Caste, and Scheduled Tribe votes.

The state government in March scrapped the decades-old four per cent quota for Muslims in the 2B category of the ‘Other Backward Castes’ and granted benefits of increased quota to Vokkaligas and Lingayats in admissions and appointments to government jobs. The Supreme Court has, however, froze it till further orders, directing that the Muslim reservation will continue for now. The matter will be heard next in July.

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Several senior Lingayat leaders of the BJP – including former Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar – have joined the Congress camp after being denied a party ticket. This has opened up the BJP to a possibility of a division in the Lingayat vote, which can decide the outcome of 90 to 100 seats.

The Congress, which found itself out of power when the alliance government it ran with Janata Dal Secular chief HD Kumaraswamy collapsed, has said it will not need a second tie-up.

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Former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and the party’s state unit chief DK Shivakumar have kept up a united front. But their rivalry over distribution of tickets gave a glimpse of the rift within.

For the Janata Dal Secular of H.D. Kumaraswamy, this is a crucial election, with party patriarch HD Deve Gowda, who is in his 90s, planning to hang up his electoral boots. The party, which was hoping to expand its base beyond Hassan and Mandya, is now trying to hold onto its traditional base in the Old Mysuru region.