16 percent voting in first four hours in Karnataka(Lead)

May 16th, 2008 - 2:36 pm ICT by admin  

Bangalore, May 16 (IANS) Around 16 percent of over 11 million eligible voters exercised their franchise in the first fours of balloting Friday in 66 constituencies in 10 districts of Karnataka in the second phase of elections for the 224-member state assembly. “Polling has been peaceful at all places, including at Bellary,” a police officer said. Balloting is taking place in central, coastal and parts of north Karnataka.

There was high drama on poll eve Thursday in Bellary with a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate and former minister B. Sriramulu “absconding” after allegedly assaulting a Congress worker.

Sriramulu resurfaced Thursday night and presented himself to the Bellary police after obtaining an anticipatory bail till May 19.

Bellary Superintendent of Police Amrit Pal, who questioned Sriramulu’s friend and mining magnate G. Janardhana Reddy, also a BJP leader, about the alleged assualt, was transferred to Bangalore Thursday night.

Police sources said the transfer was ordered to avoid possible trouble during polling Friday as BJP supporters demonstrated in Bellary Thursday protesting against the filing of cases against Sriramulu and questioning of Janardhana Reddy.

Voting is taking place to decide the fate of 589 candidates - an overwhelming majority of them independents - in Raichur, Koppal, Uttara Kannada, Bellary, Chitradurga, Davangere, Shimoga, Udupi, Chikmagalur and Dakshina Kannada districts.

There are 12,271 booths, 3,754 of which are considered “hypersensitive”, an official jargon to mean they could see violence - and 4,282 “sensitive”.

A total 56,000 security personnel are on duty. Of these, 21,000 are from the state police, 22,000 from paramilitary forces, 10,000 are Home Guards and 3,000 from the state reserve police.

About 500 personnel have been deployed in Maoist-active districts of Udupi, Shimoga and Chikmagalur.

Security personnel in these areas have been told to shoot at sight if Maoists try to disrupt the polls. The leftists have distributed pamphlets in some areas calling for an election boycott.

The second phase battle is mainly between the Congress and the BJP as the third major player in Karnataka politics, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) headed by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, does not have much support in these districts.

The JD-S’ main base is in the 11 districts that went to the polls in the first phase May 10 to elect 89 members.

The third phase polling is on May 22 for 69 seats in eight districts in north Karnataka. Counting of votes will take place May 25.

The second phase is also an all-important one for BJP as its chief ministerial candidate B.S. Yediyurappa is facing a tough battle against former chief minister and state Samajwadi Party president S. Bangarappa in Shikaripura, about 330 km from Bangalore.

While Yediyurappa has dominated Shikaripura’s political scene for over two decades, Bangarappa has lorded over the rest of Shimoga district for over three decades. This is the first time he is contesting from Shikaripura. It is the seventh time for Yediyurappa.

Yediyurappa has won from Shikaripura five times and lost once — in 1999.

Bangarappa’s home constituency is neighbouring Sorab, which has now become a battleground among his two sons.

The elder one, Kumar Bangarappa, is seeking re-election on the Congress ticket and the younger one, Madhu Bangarappa, is the Samajwadi Party candidate. Kumar defeated Madhu in 2004. At that time Madhu and his father were in the BJP.

The other poll battle attracting attention is in the politically volatile iron-ore rich Bellary district, where both the BJP and the Congress have fielded mining magnates for the Bellary city seat.

G. Somashekara Reddy of BJP is taking on Anil Lad of the Congress in a straight fight as JD-S candidate M. Diwakar Babu retired from the contest Monday in support of Lad.

In the neighbouring Davangere district’s Harapanahalli constituency, former JD-S deputy chief minister and now Congress nominee M.P. Prakash is taking on BJP’s G. Karunakara Reddy, also a mining baron from Bellary. Reddy is now a member of the Lok Sabha.

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