New Delhi: A team of Election Commission (EC) officials led by chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar reached Bengaluru on Thursday to assess the readiness for Assembly elections in the state. Assembly elections in Karnataka are due by May and are likely to be announced soon.

Mr Kumar and two other election commissioners — Anup Chandra Pandey and Arun Goel — are on a three-day visit to Karnataka. After reaching Bengaluru, the EC team held a meeting with Manoj Kumar Meena, the chief electoral officer of Karnataka and other officers at the Vikasa Soudha, the Legislative House in Bengaluru.

During their Karnataka stay, the EC team will interact with the representatives of various political parties to seek their suggestions, opinions and complaints. The team will also attend an international conference on “Inclusive Elections and Elections Integrity”, which will see the participation of election commissioners from various democratic countries.

On March 10, the election commissioners will hold a meeting with the deputy commissioners of all the districts regarding the preparation being made for the upcoming elections. Later, the election commissioners will inaugurate an exhibition on elections before flagging off LED vehicles meant for voter awareness.

The election commissioners will hold a press conference on March 11 before flying back to Delhi.

The incumbent BJP and the Opposition Congress are locked in a stiff battle for the 224-member Karnataka Assembly, where no incumbent party has returned to power since 1985.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to prove the “revolving door” theory that ensured no repeat government in Karnataka in the last 40 years wrong as the BJP tries to revive the magic of 2018. In the last Assembly elections held in 2018, the BJP got 104 seats, the Congress finished second with 80 and the JD(S) ended in third place with 37 seats.

The Congress is confident of dislodging the BJP government in the state and coming back to power. The Congress party’s state president of Karnataka D.K. Shivakumar said, “The BJP won’t cross the 65-seat mark and the tally may even come down to 40.”

Mr Shivakumar has predicted that the Congress will win in 139 seats. “The BJP wanted to conduct elections sooner. But they were unable to do so. Now, the BJP is thinking that, if elections are delayed, it might benefit them,” he said.

The Congress’ main worry in the state can be the AAP and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), both parties making an entry in the Karnataka elections for the first time. Asaduddin Owaisi’s party had last time supported JD(S) but this time it is trying to expand its footprint in the state.

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