Why 2-Phase Poll in Karnataka May Not Help Any Party in Particular
The BJP in Karnataka is trying to destabilise the ruling Congress-JD(S) government ahead of the general elections. 
The BJP in Karnataka is trying to destabilise the ruling Congress-JD(S) government ahead of the general elections. (Photo: Harsh Sahani/The Quint)

Why 2-Phase Poll in Karnataka May Not Help Any Party in Particular

The Election Commission’s decision on Sunday, 10 March, to conduct the Lok Sabha elections in two phases in Karnataka, raised many eyebrows in the state.

The big surprise for many was the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu having a single-phase election, despite having a larger number of seats and additional by-elections.

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But, before this decision led to further speculation on the political impact on the results, the Election Commission clarified saying that the movement of security forces was the reason for conducting the elections in two phases in Karnataka.

Moreover, despite the speculation, even 24 hours after the dates were announced, no political party has raised any objections to the proposed two-phase polls. According to leaders from all three parties, a mere two-day gap between the two phases will not provide enough time for the paradigm-shift strategy.

Who Will Vote When?

Divided geographically, 14 districts of South and Coastal Karnataka will go to polls on 18 April and constituencies in the northern part of the state will hit the booths on 23 April.

(Graphic: Erum Gour/The Quint)
(Graphic: Erum Gour/The Quint)

Troop Movement the Big Issue: EC

Answering questions on why Karnataka, which has only 28 seats in the Lok Sabha, has a two-phase election, while Tamil Nadu with 40 constituencies has been given a single-phase election, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Karnataka Sanjeev Kumar said the availability of security forces is the reason why elections will be conducted in two phases in the state.

Elaborating on logistical issues faced by the EC, he said, “Adjustments had to be made based on availability of security forces… We need to move forces across India.”

Kumar said, while close to 150 companies were deployed during the 2018 Assembly polls in Karnataka, so far, the state has been given only 10 companies of paramilitary forces. Although more companies are expected to arrive, they wouldn’t be enough to conduct the election in a single phase. 

Two-Day Gap Won’t Make a Difference

A day after the EC announcement, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy said he hopes the Election Commission would allow a “level playing field” for all parties in the Lok Sabha elections. Former Chief Minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah said his party looks forward to “the opportunity to fight against fascism.”

A senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said any claim of a two-phase election helping the BJP is baseless.

“The gap between the two elections is merely five days and the campaign has to stop 48 hours before the polls, which means there will be two extra days in the second phase. It is very difficult to change the narrative, as claimed by some, in two days. Even if we try to get the prime minister to campaign, you must remember there are other states also where he will have to campaign,” he said.

Coalition May Dominate First Phase

Coalition leaders DK Shivakumar (right) and HD Kumaraswamy in Karnataka Assembly.
Coalition leaders DK Shivakumar (right) and HD Kumaraswamy in Karnataka Assembly.
(Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

The first phase of the elections will cover a large section of constituencies where the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition has a strong hold.

In the past elections, constituencies like Mandya, Mysuru, Chamarajanagar, Bengaluru North, Chikkaballapur, Kolar and Hassan had witnessed a tough competition between these coalition partners.

The BJP is yet to have a big presence in this region. However, the first phase also covers Udupi, Chikmagalur and Dakshina Kannada, which are bastions of the BJP in the coastal regions of the state.

JD(S) Has Little Role in Phase Two

In the second leg of the polls, the JD(S) will have a limited role to play, as the battle will be for supremacy over the North Karnataka region. Out of the 14 seats going to polls in the second phase, 13 are from North Karnataka and one from Coastal Karnataka.

As Uttara Kannada, the sole seat from the coast in the second phase remains a BJP bastion, the BJP and Congress will focus their energies on the 13 seats in the North. In the previous general elections, out of the 13 seats in North Karnataka, nine were won by the BJP and four had gone to the Congress.

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