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Now with less than two months to go for the assembly elections, Bengaluru and Karnataka are truly in campaign and election mode. The state has already seen multiple tours by PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Amit Shah and other bigwigs from all across the political spectrum. JD(S) has already declared their first list of candidates with 126 names. Congress and the BJP are expected to release their first list shortly, by end of March or in the first week of April. Hectic lobbying to secure a party ticket in underway in all camps. It is widely expected that all the parties will give tickets to younger and fresher faces, along with their sitting MLAs. This time around the Karnataka State Assembly Elections will be keenly fought with all the parties believing they have a real shot at power and thus leaving no stone unturned to achieve desirable results. Both the Congress and the BJP have had good electoral experiences in the recent past with BJP wining in the North East and Congress performing better than expected in Gujarat and wining by-polls in MP and Rajasthan.
In Karnataka, the Congress is trying to macro-manage the assembly elections to achieve favourable electoral arithmetic. Both CM Siddaramaiah and Rahul Gandhi have been launching scathing attacks on the policies of the central government and PM Modi. CM Siddaramaiah has tried and projected the 2018 assembly elections as a contest between him and PM Modi. Simultaneously, Congress is also trying to highlight and showcase its achievements and developmental work too. Congress expects to sail through with their traditional vote bank, along with that of minorities and backward class, they are also trying to woo other caste groups and vote blocks in different regions of Karnataka. Current CM Siddaramaiah has had his eyes on the assemble elections since the last couple of years. Thus Congress has indulged in some clever political manoeuvring with playing the son-of-the-soils and Kannada pride card and raked up issues such as anti-Hindi protests and Karnataka state flag. CM Siddaramaiah according minority status to Lingayats just 2 months before the elections is also seen as a move to dent the traditional BJP vote base.
On the other hand, BJP is betting big on the anti-incumbency factor, along with the personal popularity and charisma of PM Modi. With the return of the strongman B. S. Yeddyurappa in the BJP’s fold the party has got a shot in its arm. B. S. Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) received 9.8 per cent vote share in the 2013 assembly elections which was one of the major reason for the drubbing which the BJP received the last time around. B. S. Yeddyurappa also belongs to the highly influential Lingayat community and BJP believes that the LIBRA (Lingayats and Brahmins) factor together will give them a decisive edge in the upcoming elections. Farmer distress and suicides and a deteriorating law and order situation in Karnataka especially in the urban centres are other significant factors which BJP believes will help them. Finally Karnataka has a 13 per cent Muslim population and the current Congress government is trying hard to woo them with decision such as withdrawal of communal violence cases and more. BJP believes that this appeasement politics of Siddaramaiah will result in counter-polarization of Hindu votes, which will help them.
JD(S) is the one who is working the most quietly of all the three players. In 2013 JD(S) has bagged 40 seats with a vote share of 20.45 per cent. JD(S) has successfully stitched together a pre-poll alliance with the BSP and NCP. In the meantime JD(S) is also trying to form a rainbow alliance with Left and other smaller parties. With stiff fight between the BJP and the Congress in the state many believe that the JD(S) will hold the key not only for government formation in case of a hung assembly. But performance of the JD(S) will also have a profound impact on who will become the single largest party in the 2018 assemble elections.