Campaigning picks up for second phase Karnataka polls

May 13th, 2008 - 12:33 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Bangalore, May 12 (IANS) Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi Monday appealed to Karnataka voters to give a clear mandate to his party in the on-going elctions to the state assembly as only the Congress could provide a stable and development-oriented government. Gandhi addressed public meetings at Kumta in Uttara Kannada district, Kundapura in Udupi district and Harapanahalli in Davangere district ahead of the second phase polling May 16.

Polling will take place in 66 assembly constituencies in 10 districts of Raichur, Koppal, Uttara Kannada, Bellary, Chitradurga, Davangere, Shimoga, Udupi, Chikmagalur and Dakshina Kannada May 16.

In the first phase of May 10, as many as 89 constituencies in 11 districts went to the polls. The third phase polling May 22 is for 69 constituencies in eight districts. Counting is on May 25.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi will campaign Tuesday in Koppal in north Karnataka and Mangalore in coastal Karnataka.

Rahul Gandhi’s poll campaigning in Harapanahalli is significant as Congress candidate M.P. Prakash is a former senior leader of Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) party headed by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

Prakash joined the Congress early this year, breaking away from Deve Gowda and protesting against party decisions being taken ignoring the opinion of other leaders.

Prakash belongs to the Lingayat community, considered politically influential, a section of which had drifted towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ostensibly because its interests were being ignored by the Congress.

Prakash’s main opponent is the BJP’s G. Karunakara Reddy, a Lok Sabha member and mining magnate in the neighbouring Bellary district.

Bellary, once a Congress fortress, has slipped into the hands of the BJP mainly because of the influence of Karunakara Reddy and his brother G. Janardhana Reddy, a member of the Karnataka legislative council.

Leading the BJP campaign for the second phase are senior leader L.K. Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who both addressed several meetings Sunday.

Modi continued the campaign Monday, addressing meetings in coastal Karnataka, where BJP has established a strong base.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, whose Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is contesting 217 of the 224 seats, also campaigned Monday.

The BSP contested almost all seats in 2004 but failed to win a single seat. Its presence did damage the Congress prospects in around 40 seats.

The most prominent constituency going to polls in the second phase is Shikaripura in Shimoga district, about 270 km from Bangalore, where the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate B.S. Yediyurappa is pitted against former chief minister and Samajwadi Party leader S. Bangarappa.

Samajwadi Party leaders, including its head, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, and Lok Sabha member and film actor Jayaprada are expected to campaign for Bangarappa in the next two days.

The Congress and the JD-S have not fielded their candidates in Shikaripura to consolidate secular votes against Yediyurappa, who has won the seat four times and lost once.

The main battle in the second phase is between the Congress and the BJP as the JD-S does not enjoy much support in these districts. However, Deve Gowda and his son and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy have been campaigning vigorously to make a dent.

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