The elections for the 14th Karnataka Assembly is likely to be a three-way contest between the ruling BJP, the Congress, and the JD(S). The Congress heads to the polls fresh from its thumping victory in the recently concluded urban local body elections. The Congress won 1909 of the 4976 wards, while the BJP and the Janata Dal(S) both secured 906 seats each. The results were a major blow to the BJP, which has usually had a strong showing in urban areas.
Former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa has been claiming that his newly formed Karnataka Janata Party or KJP would act as a spoiler for the BJP. Mr Yeddyurappa, who quit the BJP after 40 years in December 2012 and launched the KJP, would have been disappointed with the urban body election results, with his party putting up a poor show.
The KJP won only 272 seats. But the former Chief Minister claims the Assembly polls will be a different cup of tea and that he would be able to seriously dent the BJP's chances of returning to power. The Congress is hoping to gain from the split in votes between the BJP and KJP.
The BJP enjoys a fragile majority in the present Assembly after 14 legislators loyal to Mr Yeddyurappa resigned in February to join his KJP. The current effective strength of the Assembly is 223; the BJP has 104 MLAs, the Congress and JD(S) combined have 97, and there are 7 independents.
The configuration of the present Assembly is different from the one voted into power in 2008. The BJP's Operation Lotus in Karnataka, at the beginning of its term, saw legislators from the Congress and the JD(S) being lured to the BJP - with financial incentives according to the BJP's detractors.
This strengthened the BJP's position in the state Assembly, which had won the elections with a narrow margin. Life came a full circle for the BJP with some of its legislators leaving the party and aligning themselves with Mr Yeddyurappa just ahead of the May elections. With the recent surge in the fortunes of the Congress, party-hopping may only increase in the weeks ahead of the elections.