Karnataka elections 2023: Key contests that are going to decide battle for Assembly

Karnataka elections 2023: Key contests that are going to decide battle for Assembly

NEW DELHI: As Karnataka gears up for D-Day, with most exit-poll projections predicting a hung Assembly while putting the Congress in the lead, the outcome will boil down to how the battle for some key constituencies play out.

After a high-decibel campaign during which all three key players in the fray -- the incumbent BJP, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) -- went at each other and pulled out stops and heavyweight campaigners to woo voters, the verdict in the battle for the Karnataka Assembly now rests with the people's court.

The counting of votes will start at 8 am across 36 designated centres in the southern state, the Election Commission informed.

While the campaign saw the BJP and the Congress trading fire over the promise in the latter's manifesto to proscribe the Bajrang Dal, polling went off peacefully on May 10, with the eventual turnout recorded at a robust 73.29 per cent. A party needs to win 113 seats to reach the majority mark and stake a claim to forming the government in Karnataka.

The key constituencies to watch out for on result day are Varuna, Kanakapura, Shiggaon, Hubli-Darwad, Channapatna, Shikaripura, Chittapur, Ramanagara, and Chikmagalur.

The results in these seats could well sway the eventual outcome of the Assembly polls.

Also, the Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities, accounting for 17 and 11 per cent of the state's population, will also play a key role in deciding the eventual poll outcome.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is seeking a fresh mandate from the Shiggaon constituency from where he has won three consecutive terms in the Assembly.

There is also a lot of curiosity around the battle for the Varuna constituency where Congress stalwart and former chief minister Siddaramaiah is pitted against the BJP's V Somanna, a state minister and Dr. Bharathi Shankar of the JD(S).

The former CM is hopeful of continuing his winning streak in this seat since 2008. Another heavyweight candidate, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president DK Shivakumar is also eyeing a fresh term in the Kanakapura Assembly constituency.

A top Congress leader, who is believed to be vying for the chief minister's post this time, Shivakumar is in a direct contest against the BJP's Vokkaliga strongman and state Revenue minister R Ashoka.

BJP turncoat and former chief minister Jagadish Shettar, who switched over to the Congress after being denied a ticket by the saffron party to contest the Hubli-Darwad West Assembly constituency, is up against BJP's Mahesh Tenginkai.

Though pitted against a formidable opponent, Shettar will have hopes of coming out tops in a state he has won a number of times.

Channapatna is another key electoral battleground in Karnakata this year, with JD(S) leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy in a direct contest against BJP's Yogeshwara and Congress's Gangadhar.

Both his rivals are from the powerful Vokkaliga and are seen as formidable opponents. In another key battle, BY Vijayendra, an electoral greenhorn, will hope to conjure a win from the Shikaripura constituency, which is considered a stronghold of his father and former CM BS Yediyurappa.

Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge's son, Priyank Kharge, is contesting the Chittapur Assembly constituency. He was a former minister in the Siddaramaiah government.

In another battle that is expected to draw a lot of eyeballs, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda's grandson, Nikhil Kumaraswamy, is eyeing an electoral turnaround in the Ramanagara Assembly constituency, after a loss in the 2019 Assembly polls.

However, he is pitted against Congress veteran HA Iqbal Hussain and the BJP's Gowtham Gowda.

Chikmagalur is also among the key electoral battlegrounds in Karnataka where the BJP is eyeing a win.

The saffron party has fielded its national general secretary CT Ravi from this seat, who was talked up as a potential CM candidate by none other than party stalwart KS Eashwarappa.

A member of the Lingayat community, Ravi is yet to taste defeat in the Chikmagalur constituency since 2004.

The BJP hopes to buck anti-incumbency riding on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held a string of roadshows in the state ahead of the polls and even shared a personalised address, urging the people of Karnataka to vote back his party.

The Congress, on the other hand, is eyeing a turnaround in its electoral fortunes after a string of poll defeats, the latest of which came in the three Northeast states of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland.

Significantly, Karnataka is the only southern state where the BJP is in power and winning the state will be the key to its plans of extending its electoral footprint further down south.

While the BJP pulled out its top guns, including PM Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the party's national president JP Nadda, the Congress, too, fielded its heavyweights -- Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Kharge senior -- putting their best foot forward in the battle for 224 Assembly constituencies.

In a major electoral gambit, the BJP fielded as many as 50 new faces while denying tickets to several prominent faces.

Several of these leaders, including Shettar and former deputy CM Laxman Savadi, went into a sulk after being ignored and jumped to the Congress.

Karnataka has never brought the incumbent back to power since 1985 and the BJP would be hoping to do a first as it bids to return in the southern state.