Amid a controversy, the Election Commission (EC) Tuesday announced the schedule of the Karnataka Assembly elections, declaring that the polling for the single-phase elections for the 224-member Assembly will be held on 12 May with the counting of votes to be carried out on 15 May.

Reflecting the fierce conflict and high stakes of the Karnataka electoral battle between the incumbent Congress and the challenger BJP, the announcement of the election dates instantly triggered a fresh exchange of fire between the two parties on various fronts.

Karnataka is the last major citadel of the Congress and the BJP has been eyeing to again storm it in a bid to make a foray into south India which has still eluded the saffron juggernaut rolling through the country.

The EC’s announcement of Karnataka poll dates was shadowed by a controversy with BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya tweeting the voting and counting dates even before Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) O P Rawat, who was then addressing a press conference here, could declare them.

When this was pointed out to him, the CEC described it as a “very serious issue”, asserting that the EC will investigate into it and will then take stringent legal and administrative action.

Subsequently, the EC constituted a Committee of its six senior officials to probe into alleged leak of the Karnataka election schedule and give its report within seven days.

The reports had also surfaced about the Karnataka Congress party’s social media in-charge Srivatsa also tweeting the same information at the same time as Malviya’s controversial tweet.

Both got the polling date right and the counting date wrong. Both claimed they had picked up their information from certain TV channels.

At his press conference, CEC Rawat said the notification for the Karnataka polls will be issued on 17 April. The last date for filing of nomination and for withdrawal of candidature will be 24 April and 27 April respectively.

All electronic voting machines (EVMs) in all polling stations will be linked to Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines across the state, the CEC said.

The Janata Dal-Secular, led by Deve Gowda, would be the third player in the Karnataka fray.