The Election Commission on Wednesday announced dates for the Karnataka assembly election. The election for the 224-member Karnataka Legislative Assembly and the next Chief Minister of the state will be held on May 10 with results on May 13. It is expected to be a close contest between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress, with the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) playing a possible kingmaker role.
The BJP came to power in Karnataka in July 2019, after the collapse of the coalition government of JD-S and the Congress, which was formed after the 2018 election. The BJP managed to secure the support of several rebel MLAs from the coalition, who later joined the BJP and won by-elections. The BJP currently has 121 MLAs in the assembly, while the Congress has 70 and the JD-S has 30. The BJP also changed Chief Minister during its tenure, with BS Yediyurappa resigning in July 2021 and being replaced by Basavaraj Bommai.
The Congress, on the other hand, is hoping to regain power in Karnataka, which was once its stronghold. The party has been projecting former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah as its chief ministerial candidate, while also giving prominence to its state unit president DK Shivakumar. The party has released its first list of 124 candidates for the election, covering more than half of the seats. The party has also been highlighting the alleged failures and corruption of the BJP government and promising to deliver good governance and development.
The JD-S, led by former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, is likely to play a crucial role in the election, as it can tilt the balance in favour of either of the two major parties in case of a hung assembly. The JD-S has been maintaining an equidistant stance from both the BJP and the Congress, while also trying to expand its base beyond its traditional stronghold of the Old Mysuru region. The JD-S has also been focusing on issues such as farmers' welfare, regional development and social justice.
The Karnataka state election is important for several reasons. First, it will determine the political stability and direction of one of the largest and most economically important states in India, which contributes about 8 per cent to India's GDP and hosts several key sectors such as IT, biotechnology, aerospace and defence. Second, it will have an impact on national politics and the prospects of both the BJP and the Congress in next year's Lok Sabha elections. Third, it will reflect the outcome of a polarisation campaign on religious lines which has been amping up for years - from the targeting of Muslims over what they wear and eat and where they can trade, to attacks on Christians over accusations of forced conversions, to a coarse debate involving the 18th-century Mysuru ruler Tipu Sultan and Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar. The election will also be a test for the Congress's efforts to corner the BJP government over corruption that, it says, pervades all levels of government.
Here's the vote share of last Karnataka elections held in 2018