Karnataka election 2018 will be held in a single phase, the Election Commission has announced
New Delhi: Karnataka will vote for a new government on May 12 and the result will be announced three days later, the Election Commission said today, setting the stage for the assembly election that is seen as Rahul Gandhi's first test after assuming charge of the Congress' reins. It is also imperative for the Congress to retain Karnataka because it has already lost its grip on much of India. But the BJP boss Amit Shah, who launched the party's campaign against Chief Minister Siddaramaiah months earlier, is as determined. This is the only southern state where the BJP was able to form a government and will be vital ahead of the national election due in 2019.
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The election commission has also ordered a probe into the "leak" of the poll date after the BJP's IT cell chief Amit Malviya tweeted the election date before it was announced. Mr Malviya, who had later deleted the tweet, told the poll body that he had picked up the information from a television channel.
For the Congress, retaining Karnataka is an imperative at a time it has lost its grip on much of India. The party has just four governments - Punjab, Karnataka, Mizoram and Puducherry - compared to the BJP's 21.
The Karnataka election will be a massive test for Rahul Gandhi, who is leading the first campaign in a party-ruled state since he took over as its president in December. In his four years as Congress vice president, his leadership skills were questioned as the party lost many states.
Since BJP came to power in 2014, it has taken states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Assam and Manipur from the Congress. The BJP also bagged India's most politically important and largest state Uttar Pradesh last year and last month, it also ended the 25-year Left rule in Tripura.
With the BJP, led by former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, determined to wrest Karnataka and launching its campaign in November, the ruling Congress faces a tough challenge.
In 2014, the BJP won 17 of its 20 seats in southern states just in Karnataka, getting massive support from the urban centres like Bengaluru and Mysuru.
In an attempt to make a dent in one of the BJP's biggest vote-bases, the Siddharamaiah government recently decided to recommend religious minority status for the Lingayats as well as for the Veerashaiva Lingay.
The BJP's chief ministerial candidate Yeddyurappa is among the state's most prominent Lingayat leaders. The BJP has accused the Congress government of hypocrisy; it points out that the previous Manmohan Singh government at the centre had rejected the plan.
The election dates and the model code of conduct may affect court-ordered attempts to resolve the Cauvery dispute. The centre may not constitute the Cauvery Management Board and tell the Supreme Court that it will affect the polls.