The Election Commission's announcement of the dates for the Karnataka Assembly elections on Tuesday has sparked alive an already electric poll environment in the electorally contrarian state.
Such is the anti-incumbency wave in the state that no incumbent government has retained power in elections in Karnataka since 1985. The Congress, led by its local mascot in Siddaramaiah, is hoping to ward off the Hindutva plank of the BJP and beat the statistical odds.
If a pre-poll survey conducted by C-Fore is to be believed, the Congress will not only return to power in Karnataka but will improve its tally in the 224-member Legislative Assembly. According to News18, the survey, conducted between 1-25 March, covered 22,357 voters across 154 Assembly constituencies.
C-Fore, whose previous pre-poll surveys have never been off the mark, has said that the Congress is likely to get 46 percent of the votes, a positive swing of nine percent while the BJP is expected to get 31 percent votes and the JD(S), 16 percent of the total votes.
Sources told News 18 that the Congress itself had commissioned this survey. In 2013, C-Fore had predicted that the Congress would end up winning 119-120 seats and it ended up with 122.
However, a Financial Express report quoted opinion polls that suggested that, so far, both BJP and Congress may not get a majority on their own and the JD(S) may gain at their cost.
The survey, carried out by a poll agency named CHS, predicted 77-81 seats for Congress, 73-76 seats for BJP and 64-66 seats for the JD(S).
Another opinion poll quoted by the report (conducted by TV9-C Voter) had claimed the Congress would be the largest party with 102 seats, while BJP will likely win 96 seats. The JD(S) may end up with 25 seats and is likely to play kingmaker.
According to the News18 report, the opinion poll revealed that people ranked access to clean drinking water as their top-ranked problem. Other major problems included an inadequate drainage system and bad roads.
When it came to picking the most popular choice for chief minister, 45 percent chose incumbent chief minister Siddaramaiah as their first preference, 26 percent said BJP's BS Yeddyurappa was their pick and only 13 percent preferred HD Kumaraswamy, the C-Fore survey said.
The EC on Tuesday announced a single-phase election for the 224-member Karnataka Legislative Assembly on 12 May, with the counting of votes to be taken up on 15 May. Political parties welcomed the decision and said that they are "election ready", with all three players, Congress, BJP and JDS, claiming that they would come to power.
BJP president Amit Shah welcomed the announcement, saying that the party would come to power with a thumping majority under the leadership of state BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa.
Speaking to reporters at Davanagere on the second day of his tour to the central region of Karnataka, Shah said the party is all geared up to fight the election and will come to power and Yeddyurappa will become the next chief minister.
The ruling Congress, which is facing a tough challenge from BJP, welcomed the election dates, asserting that the party is poll ready.
@INCKarnataka welcomes the Election Commission's announcement. Karnataka Assembly Polls on 12th May and counting on 15th May 2018. We are election ready!" KPCC President G Parameshwara said in a tweet.
Commenting on the poll dates, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah expressed confidence about Congress coming back to power for a second term.
"Expectation was that it will be announced any time after March 23, today they have declared (the dates)," he told reporters in Chikkaballapura.
Responding to a question, the chief minister reiterated his allegation that JDS has joined hands with the BJP.
"We are contesting independently, JDS is also contesting independently, but they have a relationship with BJP," he said.
Asked about a pre-poll survey forecasting 126 seats for the Congress in the coming polls, he said "there is no doubt about it; we will come back (to power).
On the other hand, BJP too welcomed poll dates and claimed that the party was a step closer to "Congress Mukth Bharat."
"Dear Kannadigas, Our redemption from the tyrannical rule of @siddaramaiah is not far."
"On May 15th, 1.BJP will win with thumping majority 2. @BSYBJP will become 23rd CM from NDA 3. We will be a step closer to Congress Mukth Bharata," BJP said in a tweet.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Mar 28, 2018 15:15:47 IST