New Delhi, May 12: The stage is set for crucial Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018 where the ruling Congress, BJP and former PM H D Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal Secular are the main contenders for power. Polling on 222 seats will be held on Saturday between 7 AM and 6 PM amid tight security across the state. Over 3.5 lakh personnel will be on duty to ensure a free and fair poll.

If reports are to be believed, over 20,000 personnel from city police and central armed police force would be on duty in Bengaluru alone. Bengaluru Police Commissioner T Suneel Kumar said, “The entire city police force, which is about 16,000 personnel, will be on duty alongside 44 different companies of CAPF like Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Border Security Force and others.” (Also Read: Karnataka Polls: Follow These Steps to Find Your Polling Station)

Addressing media over the poll preparedness, Karnataka DGP and IG Neelamani Raju said that the law and order situation was under control and the Election Commission was satisfied with it. (ALSO READ – Karnakata Polls: BJP Releases Separate Manifestos For 224 Constituencies)

Sources said that some polling stations in tribal areas will have ethnic look. Meanwhile, government employees with disabilities will do duty at select polling stations for the first time. The voters would be able to know about the queue status at polling stations with a large number of people through a mobile app, sources claimed. (Also Read: My Mother is Italian But More Indian Than Many: Rahul Gandhi in Karnataka)

About candidates and electors

Over 55,600 polling stations have been set up, and there would be some auxiliary booths too. A total of 4.98 crore voters comprising 2.52 crore men, 2.44 crore women and 4,552 transgenders will exercise their franchise today to choose their representatives from a field of little over 2,654 candidates. Four chief ministers are also in the fray. These are, incumbent Siddramaiah, who is contesting from Badami and Chamundeshwari, BS Yeddyurappa from Shikaripura, Kumaraswamy (Chennapatna and Ramanagara), and BJP’s Jagdish Shettar from Hubbali-Dharwad.

Notably, since 1985, no political party in the state has won a second term in office. The Congress is aiming at retaining the only large state it rules after Punjab, while the BJP is striving to form its government in Karnataka, which party president Amit Shah said will be its gateway to the south, for the second time.

The BJP had ruled the state between 2008 and 2013, the only time it did so, but its tenure was marred by intra-party feuds and allegations of corruption. One of its three chief ministers and its current chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa was in jail over corruption charges. JD(S) state president H D Kumaraswamy has conceded it was a “battle for survival” for his party which has been out of power for a decade now.

However, the Congress is confident of breaking the jinx, with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah saying the party will create history. “I am often told history is against me as no sitting government in Karnataka has been re-elected in a long time. But we are here to create history and not to obey it,” Siddaramaiah tweeted.

Meanwhile, former Karnataka chief minister and the BJP’s candidate for the CM’s post Yeddyurappa said that he has already invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his oath-taking ceremony as CM on May 17.

High-Octane Campaign 

A high-decibel campaign for the polls in Karnataka came to an end on Thursday. The last day of campaigning witnessed multiple rallies by the political parties. On one hand, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah campaigned for their party and on the other, BJP chief Amit Shah and the party’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa participated in a roadshow in Badami constituency.

The campaigning which began soon after the announcement of the poll dates by the Election Commission witnessed a total of 21 rallies by PM Modi. BJP chief Amit Shah also held numerous roadshows while urging the people to vote BS Yeddyurappa to power. Rahul Gandhi also addressed a slew of election rallies to retain power in the state.  Apart from PM Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Amit Shah, Karnataka election campaign has seen political heavyweights like Sonia Gandhi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath campaign for their respective parties.

Key Issues: 

Farmer Crisis: The Bharatiya Janata Party said that if the Yeddyurappa Government is voted to power in the state, farmer loans of up to Rs 1 lakh would be waived for each farmer. The BJP also promised that with a fund of Rs 1.5 lakh crore, every field in Karnataka will be watered. The Congress, on the other hand, has promised to double farmers’ income and constitute a statutory Farmers Income Commission. The Janata Dal (Secular) in its manifesto also promised to waive off 100 percent farmer loans.

Pollution/Traffic Congestion: The Congress has promised to reduce incidences of urban flooding and minimise its impact on the people. The Congress said it will introduce a technology-enabled, auto-synchronized traffic management system with connected signals across the city to improve traffic movement across the city. The BJP manifesto said that it will set up 24×7 Air Quality Monitoring Stations in urban centers of all city corporations with live updates about the level of pollution being made available on the KSPCB website. Also, it plans to strengthen the state pollution control board to ensure effective functioning and accountability. The JD(S) manifesto aimed at rehabilitating all mining areas in the state.

Employment: The BJP in its manifesto promised to provide every college-going student with a free laptop. It also offered Government-sponsored foreign education for more than 400 Schedule Tribe students. The Congress promised smartphones to college-going students between the ages of 18 and 23. And it also said that it will provide free education in Government schools until grade 12. The JD(S) manifesto has promised that healthcare would be provided to labourers of unorganised sector. They will also be provided with identity cards.

About the polling: 

Polling will be held in 222 constituencies of the 224-member Assembly as election has been countermanded in Jayanagara following the death of BJP candidate and sitting MLA B N Vijaykumar. Meanwhile, polling in RR Nagar has been deferred and would be held on May 28 and results will be declared on May 31. The decision has been taken in view of the growing voices demanding that polling be deferred in the constituency following the midnight drama earlier this week when 9,746 voter IDs were seized from a flat in the area. The results for Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018 will be declared on May 15.

(With agency inputs)