National and regional political parties are bracing up for a hectic campaign over the next two weeks across Karnataka, going to the Lok Sabha elections in a single phase April 17.
With 434 candidates in fray in the 28 parliamentary constituencies, national parties Congress and BJP, regional parties like the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and a fledgling party like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are pulling out all stops.
Of the 28 seats across the state, five are reserved for candidates of the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and two for the Scheduled Tribes (ST).
Of the total candidates, 195 are independents and 21 are women, including three each from JD-S and AAP, two from the Congress, one from the BJP.
In the 2009 general elections, 428 candidates, including 19 women, contested. The BJP won 19, the Congress six and the JD-S three.
Of the 19 women, only J. Shanta of the BJP won, the Bellary ST seat, while Margaret Alva and Tejeswani Gowda of the Congress lost in Uttara Kannada and Bangalore Rural constituencies.
The highest number of contestants in this election, 26, is in Bangalore Central and the least, eight, in Gulbarga reserved (SC), where Union Minister of Railways Mallikarjun Kharge is contesting for the second time to retain the seat.
"Electioneering will pick up this week, as all parties know who is contesting from where after the withdrawal of nominations March 29. It is also befitting to launch the campaign after the auspicious Ugadi festival Monday, which heralded the New Year in the state, as per the Hindu calendar," Congress spokesman M. Ramchandrappa told IANS here.
Though parties have been campaigning informally, since the election process began March 19, with their prospective candidates, it has been a low-key affair due to the model code of conduct in place and budgetary constraints.
"Our national leaders, including party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi, will be visiting the state to campaign for our candidates. Gandhi will address public rallies Friday (April 4) at Bellary and Mangalore," Ramchandrappa said.
The Congress, BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party and AAP are contesting all 28 seats each and JD-S 25, CPI three, CPI-M two and NCP one. Other regional and unrecognised parties have fielded 124 candidates from across the state.
Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has so far campaigned in the state thrice, and has addressed party rallies at Bijapur and Belgaum in the northern region of the state March 30.
"We have requested Modi to campaign in the state at least twice in the next fortnight to cover other regions despite his tight schedule though he had already addressed Bharatha Gellisi' (Indian wins) public rallies in Bangalore, Gulbarga, Davangere and Mangalore," BJP spokesman S. Prakash told IANS.
BJP's national leaders L.K. Advani, party president Rajnath Singh, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj are set to visit the state to campaign for their party's candidates in the next 10-12 days.
AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal visited the state for two days March 15-16, before the election was notified March 19 and held road shows across Bangalore and Chikkaballapur, about 70 km from here.
He is expected to visit again at least once to campaign for his party's candidates in other constituencies.
"We are waiting for Kejriwal's office for dates when he will be able to tour others parts of the state though he had already covered Bangalore. We are also hoping our other national leaders like Yogendra Yadav, Manish Sisodia and Prashant Bhushan to campaign for our candidates contesting all 28 seats across the state," AAP state convener Pritvi Reddy told IANS.
Interestingly, Karnataka is going to the polls within a year after elections to the state legislative assembly May 5.
"We are lucky to have this election earlier (mid-April) with polling in single phase unlike last year and in 2009 when general elections were in two phases April 23, 30. Besides our leaders, cadres and candidates, even voters are spared this time from summer heat as temperatures soar after mid-April," Ramachandrappa said.