Karnataka set for final phase of voting Thursday

May 21st, 2008 - 8:40 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi

Bangalore, May 21 (IANS) Voting will take place Thursday in 69 constituencies in the decisive third and final phase of the Karnataka assembly elections at the end of a high-voltage campaign by the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S). Voting has taken place for 155 of the 224 seats in two phases, for 89 on May 10 and 66 on May 16. Counting is on May 25.

Bagging majority of seats in this third round is crucial to ruling the state. As in the second phase, the main battle for the 69 seats in the north Karnataka districts of Belgaum, Gulbarga, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Bidar, Gadag, Dharwad and Haveri is between the Congress and BJP.

The BJP ended the Congress dominance in the region in the 2004 polls when it won 31 seats which helped it to emerge as the single largest party in the last assembly with 79 seats.

The Congress bagged 17 and the JD-S was a surprise victor in 13. The rest were taken by independents.

BJP is perceived to have further strengthened its hold on the region as there is a sizeable population of politically influential Lingayat community, a section of which is upset with the Congress for allegedly neglecting its interests.

JD-S is expected by political observers to take a hit in the region as it pulled down the first BJP government in the state headed by B.S. Yediyurappa in November, just a week after he was sworn in.

Yediyurappa belongs to the Lingayat community and BJP has projected him as its chief ministerial candidate.

Prominent leaders in the field for Thursday’s polling include state Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, former Congress chief minister N. Dharam Singh and JD-S state president Merajuddin Patel.

Over 11.72 million people, including 5.76 million women, are eligible to vote to decide the fate of 699 candidates, an overwhelming majority of whom are independents.

Around 56,000 security personnel will be on duty to ensure smooth polling in 12,389 polling stations, of which 4,358 have been classified as hyper-sensitive and 4,038 as sensitive, according to the state’s Director General of Police R. Sri Kumar.

The campaign for the third phase was much more vigorous than for the first and second phases with senior BJP leader L.K. Advani touring the area for two days continuously and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi spending four days.

Sushma Swaraj of BJP also toured the area extensively. The party brought film actor and Rajya Sabha member Hema Malini and its Maharashtra leader Gopinath Munde to campaign.

The Congress campaign was led by party president Sonia Gandhi and her son, general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who addressed five public meetings between them.

On the last day of public campaigning Tuesday, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) added his bit to bolster Congress prospects by addressing a meeting in Hubli, the commercial centre in Dharwad district.

JD-S president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his son and former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Bahujan Samaj Party chief and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati have also campaigned for their party candidates.

Dharam Singh and Kharge will set a record if they are elected as it will be the ninth win in a row for them.

Dharam Singh is seeking re-election from Jewargi which has sent him to the assembly eight times while Kharge had to shift from his home seat Gurmitkal as it has been de-reserved and turned into a general constituency. He is contesting from nearby Chittapur.

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