Karnataka election date: Cong's Srivatsa faces probe, BJP's Malviya doesn't

BJP President and Rajya Sabha MP Amit Shah | PTI Photo
The Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday announced the poll dates for the Karnataka Assembly elections, which sparked a war of words between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) when their respective social media cells tweeted the poll dates before the EC announcement. The EC set up a committee to probe the leak. However, Congress spokesperson Randeep Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed that the Election Commission had excluded BJP leader Amit Shah's name from the probe list.

In a tweeted, Surjewala said, "Yesterday, Union Minister, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi went to EC with BJP IT head’s explanation. Surprising that EC exonerates BJP IT Head, who initiated ‘Date Leak’ and constitutes an inquiry thereafter."

BJP social media chief Amit Malviya tweeted the poll date before the EC announcement. The BJP later told the EC that Malviya’s tweet was based on a media report and a Karnataka Congress office-bearer had also tweeted the dates.

Interestingly, Malviya and the Congress’ Karnataka social media cell in-charge Srivatsa tweeted at 11.08 am, while an English news channel and some Kannada channels ran the news at 11.06 am. The EC announced the dates a little later.

Malviya and Srivatsa were correct about the polling date, May 12, but were incorrect about the date for counting of votes. They had said it would be May 18, while the EC, a few minutes later, said it would be May 15. Srivatsa said his information was based on media reports.

The Karnataka Assembly elections 2018 are important for the Congress party, currently in power in the state, as this is the last big state where it is still in power after losing a string of Assembly elections to the BJP in the past few years. It is also important for the BJP, which will be trying to unseat the Congress and push its call for 'Congress-mukt Bharat'.

Here are the top 10 developments around the announcement of dates for the Karnataka Assembly elections 2018 and the  controversy surrounding BJP IT cell chief's prescient tweet:

Seer Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru of Chitradurga Mutt on Wednesday wrote a letter to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah, requesting him to support the Karnataka government's decision of granting minority status to Lingayats community.

In the letter to Shah, Seer termed the ongoing movement in Karnataka between the followers of Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats community as a 'temporary outbreak of emotions', which will not last long.

He said granting special status to the community will unite the divided sub-castes of Lingayats.

"Minority status to this religion will deliver some benefits to youth of community-individually and collectively. It is not a step to divide community but measure to unite divided sub-castes of Lingayats," the letter read.

The letter of the sheer came a day after Shah accused the ruling Congress party in Karnataka of creating a rift between the Hindus.

2) In a tweeted, Surjewala said, "Yesterday, Union Minister, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi went to EC with BJP IT head’s explanation. Surprising that EC exonerates BJP IT Head, who initiated ‘Date Leak’ and constitutes an inquiry thereafter."

Strange indeed!

Has @ECI_India exonerated the ‘Date Leak’ BJP even before constituting the inquiry?

Post ‘Data Leak’, a ‘Date Leak’ infringing upon the neutrality of EC, yet no questions being asked.

Question is - Why no question from BJP IT Head? pic.twitter.com/Ep0by0ecuf

— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) March 28, 2018

3) EC working in favour of BJP, alleges AAP: The Aam Aadmi Party alleged that the Election Commission was working "one-sided in favour of the BJP", hours after the saffron party's IT cell chief announced the Karnataka Assembly polls date in a tweet before an official declaration. The Arvind Kejriwal-led party also demanded a probe into BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya's tweet. "The way EC is working one-sided in favour of the BJP, this has not happened in its history," Sanjay Singh, AAP MP and spokesperson said. "The EC has become BJP's institution and its subordinate," he alleged.

AAP's fresh attack on the poll panel comes nearly a week after the Delhi High Court set aside the Election Commission's order to disqualify 20 party MLAs for allegedly holding offices of profit.

Suggesting that all parties should unite over the issue, Singh said AAP will approach all the opposition parties to stop the "BJP from doing whatever it wants".

"All opposition parties should come together to oppose the dictatorial tendencies of the BJP government," Singh said.

4) Youth Congress activists protest against Assembly poll date leak: Scores of Indian Youth Congress activists on Tuesday staged a protest outside the Election Commission office here over alleged leak of the date of Karnataka Assembly election.

A protest march was taken out from the IYC office on Raisina Road to the Election Commission's office on Ashoka Road. The activists raised slogans against the Election Commission and the BJP in front the ECI headquarters.

Terming the "leak" as "unprecedented", the IYC leaders alleged that BJP was "encroaching" upon functioning of the Election Commission.

"This is very unfortunate. The ruling BJP has encroached upon the functioning of Election Commission of India. The very neutrality and independence of it is in doubt," said a IYC statement.

5) BJP, Congress welcome single-phase Karnataka polls, JD(S) terms it a setback: Congress and BJP in Karnataka welcomed the single-phase Assembly polls on May 12, while regional party Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) termed it a setback.

"The JD-S had requested the Election Commission (EC) to conduct the polls in two or three phases, as we are a regional party with limited number of campaign leaders.
"It is very difficult for us as a regional party. Single-phase polls is a setback for us," JD-S state spokesman Ramesh Babu said.

BJP President Amit Shah, who was on a two-day tour in central Karnataka, expressed confidence over a poll victory.

"The BJP welcomes the poll announcement," Shah told the media.

Congress state unit chief G. Parameshwara said the party was election-ready. "The Congress welcomes the EC's (poll) announcement... we are election ready," tweeted Parameshwara.

6) Election Commission orders probe into Karnataka poll date leak: The Election Commission on Tuesday formed a six-member panel to probe the leakage of poll dates for Karnataka assembly polls and submit a report within seven days.

"The Commission immediately directed that the matter be probed and necessary and effective action be taken. Accordingly, the Commission has constituted a committee of senior officers of the Election Commission to investigate the matter and give its report within seven days," the EC said in a press release.

"The committee would also suggest steps needed to prevent any such eventuality in future," it added.

7) Picked poll date from Times Now TV, Amit Malviya tells EC: After his tweeting of the Karnataka poll date ahead of the EC's formal announcement created a controversy, BJP's IT cell head Amit Malviya on Tuesday told the Commission that he had picked the date from the Times Now news channel. Malviya also pointed out that the same date was also tweeted by the Karnataka Congress's social media in-charge Srivatsa. "It was brought to my attention that my tweet on the likely dates of Karnataka election put out in the morning of 27th March 2018 posted at 11.08 a.m has raised certain apprehensions. I wish to clarify that the source of my information was a newsbreak put out by Times Now at 11.06 a.m," Malviya said in his letter to the Election Commission (EC).

"As is evident now, the final dates announced by the EC were different from what Times Now had reported, that was the sole source of information in my tweet," the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader added.

Shocking that BJP had prior knowledge of #KarnatakaElections2018. This is unprecedented & seriously undermines voters’ trust in the Election Commission of India’s impartiality. It also begs the question: does BJP have prior knowledge of the result? pic.twitter.com/SHXQRj85XV

— Milind Deora (@milinddeora) March 27, 2018
8) Amit Shah's blooper, calls BS Yeddyurappa corrupt: Amit Shah, while speaking to reporters, mistakenly called B S Yeddyurappa corrupt, while he perhaps meant Siddaramaiah. "I am not saying this, a retired Supreme Court judge has said this that Yeddyurappa government is the most corrupt government," Shah accidentally said before someone promptly corrected him and he amended his statement.

Congress said its campaign in Karnataka had started on a fabulous note as it took a swipe at BJP president Amit Shah. Rahul Gandhi also poked fun at the BJP over a tweet from a member of the party's IT cell which mentioned the polling date in Karnataka before the Election Commission had announced it. Congress social media in-charge Divya Spandana Ramya also mocked Shah's comment made at a press conference in Karnataka.

In another tweet, Ramya said this was not the first time Shah had expressed such feelings towards Yeddyurappa.

Now that the BJP IT cell has announced Karnataka elections, time for a sneak preview of our top secret campaign video!

Gifted to us by the BJP President, our campaign in Karnataka is off to a fabulous start. He says Yeddyurappa ran the most corrupt Govt ever...

True. pic.twitter.com/UYqGDZuKyR

— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 27, 2018

9) He is right: Siddaramaiah on Amit Shah's gaffe: Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah took a jibe at Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah after the latter mistakenly referred to the government of his party's own chief ministerial candidate, BS Yeddyurappa, as the "most corrupt" one.

"He has spoken the truth and he is right," Siddaramaiah told reporters while responding to Shah's gaffe.

10) Siddaramaiah govt has announced minority status to the Lingayat community: The Karnataka government recently accorded a minority status to the Lingayat community. This came days after Chief Minister Siddaramaiah-led government accepted the suggestions of the Nagamohan Das committee to grant a separate religion status to the Lingayats. The decision, taken ahead of the state Assembly election, was criticised by the Veerashaiva Lingayat Samanvaya Samiti and termed as politically motivated. The Lingayats owe loyalty to the social reform movement of the 12th century, initiated by Basaveshwara. Living mostly in North Karnataka, this community is believed to constitute 17 per cent of the state's population which makes them a key political catchment for parties.

Different regions and historical voting trends: In Karnataka, the 2008 assembly elections was won by BJP comfortably with 110 seats, whereas the 2013 assembly elections was swept by the Congress by winning 122 seats. The alternating results and trends may suggest that any party is capable of performing well throughout the state on their given day. Karnataka is divided into 30 districts and 4 administrative divisions and this geography of Karnataka is contained within 6 distinct regions. Different factors make these 6 regions conducive for one party whereas unfavourable to others.

Coastal region: The coastal region of Karnataka is a BJP stronghold

Old Mysore region - All the three primary political outfits the BJP, Congress and JD(S) have somewhat equal influence in the Old Mysore region of the state.

Bangalore region - In the Bangalore region the BJP has historically done well

Mumbai-Karnataka region - The Mumbai-Karnataka region is dominated by the Lingayat community who have their inclination towards the BJP.

Hyderabad-Karnataka region - The Hyderabad-Karnataka region of the state is also dominated by the Lingayats and Reddy brothers, both of which are traditionally BJP supporters. Thus BJP has an advantage here as well, but Mallikarjun Kharge a prominent backward class leader of the Congress and the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha belongs to the said region too. This will ensure advantage Congress on many seats which have sizeable votes from the backward community. 

Central Karnataka - In Central Karnataka both the BJP and the Congress are expecting to perform well.

Seven former JDS MLAs join Congress in Karnataka: In a blow to JD(S) headed by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, seven party rebel former MLAs on Sunday joined the ruling Congress in the presence of party president Rahul Gandhi.

The rebel MLAs had resigned from Karnataka legislative assembly on Saturday, a day after they cross-voted in favour of the Congress candidates in the March 23 Rajya Sabha biennial election in the state. Zameer Ahmed Khan, Chaluvaraya Swamy, Iqbal Ansari, Balakrishna, Ramesh Bandisiddegowda, Bheema Nayak and Akhanda Srinivas Murthy were welcomed into the party fold by Gandhi at a public rally here in the poll-bound Karnataka.

Along with them, former JDS MLCs M C Nanaiah, Sarovar Srinivas and B Ramakrishna also joined the Congress.

Important dates for Karnataka Assembly Election 2018

17 April: Issue of notification

24 April: Last date of nomination

25 April: Date of scrutiny

27 April: Last date of withdrawal of candidates

12 May: Date of Polling

15 May: Counting of votes/ Result day
* Date of notification is April 17 and nominations should be filed by April 24. The last date of withdrawal of candidature is April 27. Counting of votes will take place on May 15.

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