The Election Commission on Tuesday announced that the Assembly polls in Karnataka will be held on May 12. The results will be announced on May 15.

The term of the current Assembly, which has 224 seats, ends on May 28. The last date to file nominations is April 24.

Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat said that the poll panel had noted the dates were leaked before it was officially announced, and promised to take strict action against those responsible.

The model code of conduct will be in place with immediate effect, and voter-verified paper audit trails will be used along with electronic voting machines, Rawat said at a press conference in New Delhi.

These polls are politically crucial for the Congress, which has lost a string of elections to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Karnataka is the only large state where the Congress is in power.

In a bid to stop the BJP, the Congress has granted minority status to the Lingayat community. But this has set off a political maelstrom, with the BJP and the Veerashaiva community accusing the Congress of attempting to divide Hindu votes.

BJP National President Amit Shah on Monday said the state government’s decision was aimed at preventing state chief BS Yeddyurappa from becoming the chief minister. Yeddyurappa himself has criticised Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, saying he had stooped low for votes.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi has been touring the state, relentlessly criticising the Narendra Modi-led Centre’s performance on the economic front.

The HD Deve Gowda-led Janata Dal (Secular) is the other important political player in the state. The party has been affected by the decision of seven of its legislators to join the Congress.

Rahul Gandhi has questioned the party’s political allegiance, asking its leaders to clarify if they had forged a tacit understanding with the BJP ahead of the Assembly elections. The Congress president told a crowd in Mysuru on Monday that HD Deve Gowda’s party, which he had earlier called “Janata Dal Sangh Parivar”, does not have any ideology.