Karnataka political parties welcome poll dates

April 2nd, 2008 - 10:50 pm ICT by admin  

Bangalore, April 2 (IANS) Political parties in Karnataka, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Wednesday welcomed the announcement of dates for the state assembly polls, which will be held May 10, 16 and 22. “We congratulate the Election Commission for announcing the dates early for which we had been pressing,” state BJP chief D.V. Sadananda Gowda told reporters here.

However, the announcement did come as a surprise to many as they expected the Election Commission to do so sometime next week.

In fact, state election panel officials late Tuesday told reporters that Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswamy and Election Commissioners S.Y. Qureshi and Navin Chawla would be arriving in Bangalore April 4 on a two-day visit. They would then hold a final round of discussion with state officials on their preparedness for the polls.

It was hence expected that poll dates would be announced only after their visit.

Speculation was also rife in political circles that the panel would go for a two-phase poll and conclude it in the first half of May, before peak summer sets in.

But the commission announced a three-phase poll May 10, 16 and 22 and scheduled counting of votes for May 25.

The BJP’s hopes of ruling a southern state for the first time were dashed by its coalition partner Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in October last year, forcing dissolution of the assembly more than a year ahead of the expiry of the assembly’s term. The party had threatened to move the Supreme Court if the poll was not held before the expiry of the president’s rule.

It was apprehensive that the Congress may attempt to postpone the poll to October-November due to faulty voters’ lists and that the weather in May would be too hot for voters to turn out to vote.

“We have been in a poll mode from October itself,” Gowda remarked.

In October, the JD-S refused to honour its word to transfer the chief ministership to the BJP as per the coalition agreement reached between them in February 2006.

After a brief re-union in November, the JD-S again pulled out of the alliance, bringing down the BJP’s first chief minister in the south, B.S. Yediyurappa, just a week after he was sworn in. President’s rule was imposed Nov 20 and the assembly was dissolved Nov 28.

“We will get a clear mandate,” Gowda said.

The BJP emerged as the single largest party with 79 seats, its highest tally so far in Karnataka, in the 2004 assembly poll. The Congress, which had won over 130 seats in 1999, managed to bag 65 seats with the JD-S taking 59. The rest were shared by Independents and small parties.

State Congress president Mallikharjun Kharge said: “Our party is always ready for polls. We will regain power as people have seen the damage to governance from split verdicts.”

Former Congress chief minister S.M. Krishna, who resigned recently as Maharashtra governor to return to active politics, said he was confident that people would repose trust in the Congress as they wanted a stable government.

“We will highlight the failures of the BJP and JD-S during their coalition rule,” he told reporters in Delhi.

JD-S leaders said they expected the poll in May and that they were “ready”.

“Our national president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda had been urging the Election Commission not to defer the poll on the basis of Congress complaints against faulty voters list,” a party spokesperson said.

Though this is not the first time the poll is being held in May in Karnataka, summer will be at its peak, particularly in the northern parts.

The official websites of northern districts such as Gulbarga, Bidar, Bellary, Raichur describe May as the hottest month with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees Celsius.

“May is the hottest month, the mean daily maximum temperature being 39.8 degrees Celsius. The heat is oppressive till the onset of the southwest monsoon by about the first week of June,” says one site.

“The climate is very hot during the summer, which affects adversely on the work capacity of the people. The temperature ranges between 42 degrees centigrade in summer,” the Gulbarga district website says.

But BJP, Congress and JD-S say they are confident of enthusing the voters in these districts to dare the heat and head to polling booths.

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