Counting on for eight Karnataka by-polls (Lead)

December 30th, 2008 - 10:22 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyBangalore, Dec 30 (IANS) Counting of votes began Tuesday morning for the by-elections to eight Karnataka assembly seats that are seen as a matter of prestige for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).Around 74 percent of the nearly 1.3 million eligible voters cast their votes in the by-elections held Saturday.

Seven by-elections were caused after the stilling legislators - three of the Congress and four of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) - resigned from the assembly to join the BJP. The eighth follows the death of JD-S legislator M.S. Siddaraju.

The BJP, Congress and JD-S are locked in a triangular fight in all constituencies, though several independents are also contesting.

The campaign was marred by attempts to distribute money, liquor and other inducements to voters.

According to State Chief Electoral Officer M.N. Vidyashankar, Rs.3.2 million in cash and liquor worth Rs.12 million meant for distribution among voters had been seized from the constituencies ahead of the elections.

State election authorities had declared all the 1,613 polling booths in the eight constituencies as sensitive in view of the high political stakes.

The focus is on Madhugiri, about 90 km from Bangalore, where former prime minister and JD-S president H.D. Deve Gowda’s daughter-in-law Anita Kumaraswamy is contesting against JD-S ‘defector’ C. Chennigappa, who is now a BJP candidate.

The by-polls are a prestige issue for the BJP as it has included four ‘defectors’ in its ministry and all of them are contesting as its candidates.

The four are Balachandra Jarkhiholi, K. Shivana Gouda Naik, Umesh Katti (all formerly of JD-S) and Anand Asnotikar (formerly Congress). Jarkhiholi is contesting from Arabhavi, Gouda Naik from Devadurga, Katti from Hukkeri and Asnotikar from Karwar.

The other three constituencies where by-polls are being held are Doddaballapur, Turuvekere and Maddur. In Maddur, the bypoll follows the death of the JD-S legislator.

Anita, the 44-year-old wife of former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, is a businesswoman who runs Kasturi, a Kannada TV channel.

Anita is the fourth member of the Gowda family to enter politics. Besides her husband and father-in-law, her brother-in-law H.D. Revanna is also in politics. Revanna was a minister in his younger brother Kumaraswamy’s cabinet in 2006-2007.

The BJP had won 110 seats in the May assembly polls, three short of a majority. But it formed its first government in south India with the support of six independents. Five of them were made ministers.

The party then decided to lure legislators from the JD-S and the Congress to reduce dependence on the independents for the government’s survival.

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