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May 6, 2024

Battle Royale: BJP and Congress Clash Again in Karnataka’s 14 Lok Sabha Seats

As Karnataka braces for the second phase of Lok Sabha elections, the political arena is set for a showdown between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress. With 14 seats up for grabs, the stage is primed for a fierce electoral battle on Tuesday.

In this phase, the contest primarily revolves around the northern districts of Karnataka, where the ruling Congress and the BJP are poised for a head-to-head clash. Notably, the Janata Dal (Secular) is not contesting in these constituencies, throwing its support behind its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partner, the BJP.

The state, known for its 28 Lok Sabha constituencies, witnessed the first phase of polling on April 26, covering most of the southern and coastal districts. Now, with over 2.59 crore eligible voters, the second phase will see 227 candidates, including 21 women, vying for victory in 14 constituencies.

Polling stations, numbering 28,269, will open from 7 am to 6 pm, accommodating voters across Chikkodi, Belgaum, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Gulbarga, Raichur, Bidar, Koppal, Bellary, Haveri, Dharwad, Uttara Kannada, Davangere, and Shimoga.

In the previous 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP swept all 14 seats, defeating the Congress and JD(S) alliance which then governed the state. However, buoyed by a significant victory in the Assembly elections last year, the Congress is now determined to put up a formidable fight.

Security measures for the polling day have been robustly addressed, with Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer Manoj Kumar Meena confirming the deployment of around 1.45 lakh polling officials and substantial police forces across the constituencies. Additionally, 4,000 micro-observers will be on duty, with 17,000 polling stations covered by webcasting.

The contest is rife with prominent candidates from both parties, including former Chief Ministers Basavaraj Bommai and Jagadish Shettar, Union Ministers Pralhad Joshi and Bhagwanth Khuba from the BJP, and Congress’ Geetha Shivrajkumar, among others.

Of particular interest is the performance of the Congress in this phase, especially in the Lingayat-dominated districts. The party aims to regain lost ground, particularly after not winning any seats in these areas in 2019, while also ensuring the retention of Lingayat support, which appeared to have shifted somewhat towards it in the 2023 Assembly polls.

This election also serves as a significant test for key political figures like D K Shivakumar, the state unit chief of Congress, whose aspirations for the chief ministerial post are no secret. Similarly, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s strength may hinge on victory in this election, analysts suggest.

For B Y Vijayendra, the state BJP president, this election is a litmus test to retain the party’s supremacy, especially among the traditional Lingayat vote-base. His success is crucial to consolidating his position and quelling critics who questioned his elevation to the post.

While the ruling Congress banks on the implementation of its populist five guarantee schemes, the BJP is leveraging the “Modi factor” to the fullest, highlighting national leadership as a pivotal factor in their campaign.

As the electoral battle intensifies, all eyes are on Karnataka to see which party will emerge victorious in this crucial phase of the Lok Sabha elections.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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