The Election Commission of India (ECI) today announced the schedule for the Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018. Voting for the 224-member assembly will be held on 12th May 2018 in a single phase and the counting will be held and the results will be declared on 15th May 2018. The moral code of conduct has come in to effect as soon as the election dates were announced by the ECI in a press conference today. Contrary to the popular belief that the election dates would be announced after the Karnataka board examination are over the Election Commission has chosen to declare the dates early. On 17th April 2018 the Election Commission will come out with the notification regarding filling of nominations. The last date for filing the nomination papers is 24th March 2018 and the last date to withdraw the nomination is 27th April 2018.
In the press conference the Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat informed that Central Forces will be used to provide security and maintain law and order. The Election Commission has also announced that they will use VVPAT (Voter-verified paper audit trail) machines in the Karnataka assembly elections to eliminate any suspicion of reliability of the electronic voting machines (EVM). In the Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018 the EVMs will also have a candidate image, along with the party symbol for the voters to easily identify the candidates. Also it was announced that the total expenditure incurred on the election campaign by the candidates should not exceed Rs. 28 lakhs. This time around 56,696 polling stations will be used in which 4 crore 96 lakh and 357 registered voters of the state will have an opportunity to exercise their franchise.
Soon after the election dates were announced a controversy broke out with some section of the media alleging that Amit Malviya BJP’s IT cell head tweeted the date of polling and counting even before it was officially announced by the Election Commission. On his part Amit Malviya stated that he got the dates from the section of local Karnataka media that flashed the dates before the ECI could announce it. Although the dates flashed were right about the election date but the counting date was wrong. On its part the ECI has said that it will look in to the issue and carry out an investigation and initiate action if necessary. The announcement of the election dates was welcomed by various political parties and their leaders. Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, BJP national president Amit Shah, KPCC president Dr G Parameshwar, BJP state president BS Yeddyurappa and JDS state president HD Kumaraswamy all have welcomed the Election Commission's announcement.
As the election dates were announced and the moral code of conduct came in to effect immediately with it CM Siddaramaiah was today unable to inaugurate a Diary in Chikkaballapur build with an investment of around Rs 160 crores. As the news broke of the election dates being announced CM Siddaramaiah had to go back without attending the inauguration ceremony. In another major development JDS chief HD Deve Gowda has stated that his party is ready for a pre-poll alliance with the Congress in Karnataka, this comes after Rahul Gandhi termed JD(S) as B-team of the BJP and stated that the 'S' in JD(S) stands for Shakha (as in RSS Shakha) and not secular.
Announcement of the poll dates is expected to heat things up further in the state of Karnataka. The most recent opinion poll conducted by C-Four survey has said that the Congress would come back to power with a clear majority in the state and will win more seats than it did in 2013. The said polls were conducted between 1st and 25th March 2018. A survey of 22,357 voters in 154 assembly constituencies was done. The survey predicted that Congress would get 126 seats, BJP 70 and JDS 27 in 224 seats. It further stated that in the 2018 Assembly polls, Congress will get 46% of the vote. It is likely to get 9 percent more votes than it did in the previous election. The BJP and the JDS will get 31% and 16% vote share respectively. The JDS vote share is likely to be 4 per cent lower than the last time. The survey expects the Muslims and Dalits to vote overwhelmingly for the Congress.