The stage is set for a heated political battle in Karnataka as the election campaigns of several political parties gain momentum ahead of the Assembly polls on 12 May. While Congress president Rahul Gandhi is already in Karnataka for the seventh leg of his campaigning in the state, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address 20 rallies after his return from China.
The Karnataka Assembly polls are also the new battlefield for political stalwarts of Uttar Pradesh including Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav, and BSP chief Mayawati, who will be crisscrossing the state to turn the tide in favour of their respective parties.
With a recent opinion poll by Times Now and VMR predicting a close contest between Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress but neither party enjoying an absolute majority, HD Deve Gowda's JD(S) is expected to emerge as the kingmaker. JD(S) is expected to win 40 seats in the 224-member Assembly, whereas Congress is projected to win 91 seats and the BJP 89 " both parties well short of the 113 mark required to form a government in the state.
The Congress is fighting to retain power in the southern state, which is one of the party's last bastions. BJP has also stepped up its election campaign in Karnataka as the party eyes a comeback in the state after its defeat in the 2013 Assembly elections in the state. As for BSP, which has entered into a pre-poll alliance with JD(S) ahead of the Assembly elections in the state, the election is all about strengthening the party's base in Karnataka with Mayawati's fortunes dwindling in Uttar Pradesh. Let's take a detailed look at which party has planned what in the upcoming days in poll-bound Karnataka.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi arrived in Karnataka on Thursday to kickstart the seventh leg of his campaigning in the southern state. During his two-day visit, Rahul will address several meetings in the state and release the party's election manifesto for the upcoming Assembly elections.
Congress chief will visit Uttara (North) Kannada district in the northwestern part of the state on Thursday to hold several public meetings in Ankola, Kumta, Honnavar, and Bhatkal.
"Rahul will also release the election manifesto in Mangaluru on Friday in the presence of senior leaders like (Karnataka in-charge) KC Venugopal and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah," Congress state unit spokesman Ravi Gowda told IANS in Bengaluru.
Rahul will later address public meetings in Bantwal and Gonikoppal towns in Dakshina (South) Kannada district on Friday. In the evening, the Congress leader will address a public meeting in Periyapatna in Mysuru district.
Rahul Gandhi's mother and former party chief Sonia Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, senior leaders Shashi Tharoor, Mallikarjun Kharge and Ghulam Nabi Azad, among others, will also visit the state for campaigning.
So far, Congress chief has held six rounds of campaigning in the southern state. The sixth phase of campaigning was on 7-8 April.
Bharatiya Janata Party
BJP will fly in some 40 "star campaigners" to poll-bound Karnataka, including Modi, a host of Union ministers and senior leaders to campaign for the party's success in the ensuing polls
Modi is likely to address about 20 rallies in Karnataka to boost BJP's campaign in a state where his party is locked in a keen fight with Congress.
Party sources said Modi, BJP's biggest crowd-puller, is likely to kick off a series of rallies in the southern state from 1 May.
Though he has addressed public meetings in the state earlier, he has not hit the campaign trail since the Election Commission announced the Assembly election schedule on 27 March.
BJP sources said that a final programme of Modi's election tour is still being finalised and he is expected to address anywhere between 15-20 rallies.
The saffron party is making all-out efforts to oust the Siddaramaiah dispensation from power in the state.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who is among the BJP's star campaigners in the upcoming Assembly elections, will visit Karnataka on 3 and 4 May and then from 7 to 10 May.
Adityanath will be seen in action, addressing as many as 35 rallies and road shows the saffron party has organised for him as the Nath sect, to which he belongs, wields considerable clout in coastal Karnataka, BJP sources said on Thursday.
"After Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Tripura, chief minister Yogi Adityanath is one of the most sought-after leaders in the Karnataka campaign," The Asian Age quoted a party leader as saying.
BJP leaders say that the UP chief minister is very likely to launch a counter-offensive against the remarks that were made against him by Karnataka Congress working president Dinesh Gundu Rao earlier this month. Rao had set the tone for Adityanath's visit by openly asking the people of Karnataka to boycott him. He later apologised for his remarks, describing them as an "emotional outburst."
Earlier, during his February visit, Adityanath had taken on Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on the microblogging site, which blew up into a twitter war between the two chief ministers.
In between his rallies and road shows, Adityanath is also expected to visit temples and mutts as the BJP looks to play the Hindutva card in a state where it is anxious to regain power it lost 10 years ago.
In December last, while addressing a "Parivartan Yatra" rally in Hubbali, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister had stoked passions by asking people to choose between Hanuman Jayanti and Tipu Jayanti " a remark aimed at questioning Congress' two-year-old decision to commemorate the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler who hailed from the region.
Besides Modi, Adityanath, and BJP national president Amit Shah, Union ministers Sushma Swaraj, Smriti Irani, Nirmala Sitharaman, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Piyush Goyal, as well as veteran actor and MP Hema Malini are also expected to visit the southern state.
Bahujan Samaj Party and Janata Dal (Secular)
BSP supremo Mayawati whose party has entered into a pact with former prime minister Deve Gowda's JD(S), has already started working in the state with her rallies starting on Wednesday from Mysuru. She will be addressing a rally in Chitradurga on Thursday and Belagavi and Bidar on 5 and 6 May respectively. Mayawati who is currently touring Karnataka will also share the stage with the JD(S) leadership at public rallies.
The BSP is contesting on 20 seats in Karnataka and is hoping to open an account there with the JD(S) support.
Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav will also be touring the state to champion his party's cause in those constituencies where the Samajwadi Party is in the fray.
"The SP has fielded over two dozen candidates in Karnataka. The party president will be campaigning there for our candidates. The tour details will be finalised in a day or two," SP spokesman Rajendra Chowdhury told PTI.
When asked specifically as to whether Akhilesh will campaign for the Congress too, Chowdhury said, "He will campaign for Samajwadi Party candidates only as of now."
Congress and Samajwadi Party had contested the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls last year jointly but had contested the civic body polls in the state independently.
With inputs from agencies