After a high-voltage campaign for the Karnataka assembly elections ended on Monday, voting began at 7 am amid tight security across 224 assembly constituencies in the state today.
Political parties have fielded some of their top leaders in major constituencies. After the parties released their lists, high political action was witnessed with some promiment leaders quitting their parties and joining the opposition. The electoral fate of top guns--Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, Congress veterans Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar and JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy among others will be sealed during the day-long exercise.
Here is a look some top candidates:
Basavaraj Bommai (BJP) : The incumbent chief minister is contesting from Shiggaon constituency where he has been an MLA three times since the 2008 Karnataka assembly election. He took over as the chief minister after former CM BS Yediyurappa resigned. In the last election in 2018, Bommai won from the constituency by 9,260 votes.
The Congress has not been able to win the seat, once considered its stronghold, since 1999. The JD(S) and independent candidates won from here in 1999 and 2004 respectively.
Bommai first contested the Assembly elections in 2008 as a BJP candidate, after quitting Janata Dal (United).
Siddaramaiah (Congress) : Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah will be contesting from Varuna constituency which is currently represented by his son Dr Yathindra Siddaramaiah. He reiterated that this would be his last election and virtually laid out a "succession plan" of sorts.
He is an eight-time MLA. He had earlier won twice from Varuna, and went on to become the Leader of Opposition after winning from here in 2008, and then became Chief Minister after 2013 Assembly polls.
Siddaramaiah while a addressing public meeting said this will be his last election. After contesting this polls, he will retire from electoral politics, but not from politics.
DK Shivakumar (Congress) : Seven-time MLA Shivakumar will be contesting from Kanakapura constituency. He has been elected thrice from Karnakapura since 2008 and is now seeking a re-election for the fourth time here.
He had earlier won four consecutive elections since 1989 from the nearby Sathanur till he shifted to the Kanakapura in 2008, after that constituency ceased to exist as the result of a delimitation exercise.
In the 2018 elections, Shivakumar secured 1,27,552 votes, defeating JD(S) candidate Narayana Gowda (47,643) by 79,909 votes. Earlier, in a surprise move, hours before the deadline for filing nomination for the Assembly polls in Karnataka, Congress MP from Bangalore Rural D K Suresh on Thursday entered the fray from the same constituency in what was termed as Shivakumar's "backup plan" in the event of his nomination getting rejected.
HD Kumaraswamy (JD(S)) : Five-time MLA H D Kumaraswamy, son of former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, will be contesting from the Channapatna constituency. Kumaraswamy, on getting elected from Channapatna and Ramanagara in 2018, retained Channapatna; he then went on to head the JD(S)-Congress coalition government as the Chief Minister. However, he resigned after 14 months following a revolt by his own party MLAs.
Kumaraswamy had won the neighbouring Ramanagara seat continuously since 2004 and went on to become Chief Minister too. As he had contested from Channapatna too in 2018, he gave up Ramanagara seat and made his wife Anitha contest from there in subsequent bypolls and ensured her victory. She is the sitting MLA from Ramanagara.
Despite being in the home district of Shivakumar, Congress had not won Ramanagara since 1999.
Jagadish Shettar (Congress) : In a major turn of events, former Karnataka chief minister Jagadish Shettar announced his resignation from the BJP after he was denied a ticket. The 67-year-old was the sitting MLA from Hubli-Dharwad Central. The BJP high command had earlier in the week asked him to drop his name for the election and that left the senior leader upset.
He will be contesting from the same constituency on the Congress ticket for the first time. The exit of Shettar from the North Karnataka region has triggered a political row with Congress accusing the BJP of being an 'anti-Lingyat' party.
CT Ravi (BJP) : Former Minister and BJP national general secretary C.T. Ravi will be contesting from Chikkamagaluru seat for the sixth time. Ravi has a winning streak from the Chikmagalur from 2004 and belongs to the Lingayat community giving him a stronghold in the constituency. He is a four-time MLA from the constituency.
V Somanna (BJP) : The ruling BJP has fielded Minister V Somanna from Varuna to take on Siddaramaiah. He will also be contesting from another constituency - Chamarajanagar. Both the leaders did not contest from this constituency last time. Earlier in 2018, Somanna had won from Govindaraja Nagar in Bengaluru. He is a former Congress leader who switched to BJP in 2009.
R Ashoka (BJP) : Senior BJP leader and Karnataka Minister R Ashoka is pitted against state Congress president D K Shivakumar in the latter's home bastion of Kanakapura. Mr Ashoka is also contesting the polls from his traditional seat of Padmanabhanagara in Bengaluru. From the Vokkaliga community, Ashoka is considered to be a close aide of former chief minister BS Yediyurappa.
(With inputs from PTI)