Bengaluru: A new survey, conducted to find out voter perception in Karnataka ahead of the 2018 assembly polls, finds that 86% of the respondents in the state consider the candidate the most important reason for them to vote in the upcoming assembly elections.

The survey also finds that about 67% consider the candidate’s party to be a major factor and about 42% say that they would vote based on the chief ministerial candidate.

The findings were part of the Karnataka Voter Survey 2018 carried out by the Association for Democratic Reforms and DAKSH, a civil society organisation which undertakes research activities to promote accountability and better governance in India.

O.P. Rawat, chief election commissioner of India, released the survey at the 14th annual national conference by ADR and Karnataka Election Watch (KEW), in Bengaluru on Saturday.

Karnataka, which is heading for assembly polls later this year, has become the focal point and new battleground for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. The Congress party, which has lost out on many state elections in recent months, continues to be in power in Karnataka. Both the national parties have left little to chance to bag Karnataka, as it would also be one of the last major elections before 2019 Lok Sabha polls, where the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will defend its five years in office.

The Karnataka Voter Survey 2018 interviewed 13,244 people across all 225 constituencies of the state with an Android hand-held device and a questionnaire to gauge the mood of the people on 25 important topics like water, electricity, roads, food, education and health among other issues.

According to the findings, the candidates religion was important to 37% of the respondents and caste to 36%. Karnataka, where caste plays a very important role from candidate selection to outcome, has seen all parties focus specifically on influential caste groups and win their support. Traditionally, the Congress is perceived to enjoy the support of minorities, backward classes and dalits. The Lingayats and Vokkaligas—believed to be the two largest communities in the state—are seen to ally with the BJP and Janata Dal (Secular) respectively. To be sure, all three major political parties have carried out extensive outreach programmes to win the backing of communities that are not considered their support base.

However, Siddaramaiah’s Anna Bhagya (free rice) scheme continues to boost his popularity ahead of the polls, the survey finds. 79% of the respondents were happy with the Anna Bhagya scheme while about 63% of beneficiaries of the Cycle Bhagya scheme were happy with the programme, the survey finds. Siddaramaiah and the Congress have announced multiple populist schemes—popularly known as ‘Bhagya’ brand of schemes—around food security and healthcare, to cover the entire state.

However, schemes like Shaadi Bhagya got majority of responses in the negative. About 45% of the respondents were not happy with the scheme while only 16% were happy and another 40% said that they did not use the scheme.

Along with the importance of these 25 issues, voters were also asked to rate the performance of their government on these particular issues and whether the performance was good, average or bad. For calculating the performance score, separate weightages were given to the three categories where good was given weightage equal to 3, Average was weighted 2 and Bad as 1. The weighted average was taken and the scores were between 1 to 3, where 1 was the lowest and 3 was the highest.

According to the survey, improving water supply and quality was the most important issue among its respondents as it was rated 8.06 out of 10 in rural areas and 8.02 in urban areas.

With failing rains and resulting droughts, Karnataka has faced acute drinking water shortages in recent times.

Other issues of importance in urban areas included better electricity supply (7.97) and better schools (7.94) followed by better roads (7.81) and environment protection (7.80).

Rural area respondents rated better schools (8.03) and better roads (7.99) followed by better electric supply (7.96) and more hospitals (7.92).

“Job Trainings with a score of 7.51 out of 10 had the least significance according to the survey respondents," the survey added.

“The worst performances were on the issues of Public Facilities (6.79), Corruption Eradication (6.77) and Job Trainings (6.40) in urban areas. In rural areas, the highest performance score was given to Better Schools with 7.58 out of 10. The worst performance score was given to Better Employment Opportunities (6.70), Corruption Eradication (6.67) and Job Trainings (6.60) in rural areas," according to the survey.

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