Riven by graft, Karnataka votes Sunday to elect new government (Curtainraiser)

Bangalore, May 3 (IANS) It has been a bitter five years marked by corruption, intrigue and vicious infighting with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) splitting right down the middle but Karnataka voters hope to put it behind them when they vote in a new assembly Sunday.

The polls have drawn national attention as the ruling BJP and the Congress, the two major contenders for power, are locked in a bitter war of words over corruption.

The outcome of the polls, which will be known May 8, is also being keenly watched across the nation as the BJP has split with B.S. Yeddyurappa, the man who gave the party its first regime in a southern state and who later quit to head his Karnataka Janata Party (KJP).

Yeddyurappa, who was forced to give up the chief minister’s post in July 2011 over mining bribery charges, has repeatedly said that his main aim is to root out the BJP from the state.

Voting will take place for 223 of the 224 elected seats in the 225-member assembly that includes one nominated member representing the Anglo-Indian community.

Polling in Periyapatna constituency in Mysore district in south Karnataka has been countermanded following the death of BJP candidate S. Mogegowda April 29.

Over 43.6 million people, around 21.6 million of them women, are eligible to cast their ballots.

Other parties in the fray include the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Nationalist Congress Party, the Samajwadi Party, the Janata Dal-United), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Communist Party of India (CPI), and BSR Congress floated by B. Sriramulu, former BJP minister and associate of jailed mining baron G. Janardhana Reddy.

However, the contest is mainly between the BJP, the Congress, the JD-S and the KJP, though it is not evenly spread across the state.

In most of the 12 districts in north Karnataka, which sends 90 representatives to the assembly, it will be a three-way battle among the BJP, the Congress and the KJP.

For 88 seats in 11 districts in south Karnataka, including 28 seats in Bangalore urban district, the main contenders are the Congress and the JD-S, as the BJP is weak in this region, except Bangalore urban.

It will virtually be a straight fight between the BJP and the Congress in the three costal districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada, which together have 19 seats.

In the four districts in central Karnataka, the BJP and the Congress are the major contenders for the 26 seats.

The BJP campaign has been spearheaded by party president Rajnath Singh and leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.

However, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi stole the show with his virulent attack on the Congress and mocking Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi led the party’s charge against the BJP.

JD-S star campaigners were its president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his son and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy.

For the KJP, it has been Yeddyurappa all the way.

The BSP’s Mayawati, JD-U’s Sharad Yadav and the CPI-M’s Prakash Karat have also campaigned for their parties.

(V.S Karnic can be contacted at [email protected])

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