Nearly 60 percent voting in first phase of Karnataka polls (Roundup)

May 10th, 2008 - 10:49 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party

Bangalore, May 10 (IANS) Around 60 percent of 17.3 million eligible voters including those in Bangalore Saturday voted in 89 constituencies across 11 southern districts of Karnataka in the first phase of assembly elections considered crucial for the Congress’ hope of recapturing power in the state. Voting was the lowest, 44 percent, in the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (Greater Bangalore Civic Corporation) area where there are 21 seats and the Congress is banking on a good show in them. Its main opponents, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), are perceived to be weaker in the state capital.

Congress leaders were unwilling to make an assessment of the impact the low voter turnout will have on the performance of its candidates in the 21 constituencies.

Mysore with 11 constituencies recorded a moderate 54 percent voting.

Bangalore urban district with seven seats and rural district with four recorded 55 percent and 72.5 percent turnout respectively.

The 11 districts of Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Mysore, Tumkur, Mandya, Hassan, Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Ramanagaram, Chamarajanagar and Kodagu have been strongholds of the Congress and JD-S, though the BJP has been making inroads there.

These districts are dominated by the politically powerful Vokkaliga community to which JD-S president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda belongs.

To counter him, the Congress brought its former chief minister S.M. Krishna, who was Maharashtra governor, back into active politics. Krishna campaigned extensively in these areas, particularly in Bangalore urban district.

In the districts going to polls in the second phase May 16 and the third and last phase May 22, the battle is mainly between the Congress and BJP, with JD-S also trying to make an impact.

The state assembly has 224 members. Counting is on May 25.

Krishna was confident that the Congress would win 45 of the 89 seats where polling was held Saturday.

“The Congress is sure to get a simple majority as voters are in favour of my party,” he told reporters after voting in his hometown Somanahalli in Mandya district.

A beaming former chief minister Kumaraswamy, pitted against Mamatha Nichani of the Congress, said the JD-S would secure majority to form the new government on its own. “I will be king and not kingmaker,” he told reporters after voting in Bidadi on Bangalore’s outskirts.

His father Deve Gowda said in Hassan: “We are not depending on individuals or castes for votes. We are maintaining equidistance from the Congress as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”

BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu, a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, said after voting in Bangalore that his party would get a comfortable majority in the first phase.

“Bangalore is very important (because of the number of seats) and if you win here, your victory is assured,” he said.

The polling was largely peaceful though police used batons at two places - in Gandhinagar in Bangalore to disperse voters protesting because their names were missing from the electoral list and in Varuna in Mysore district where people demonstrated against an official for allegedly seeking votes in favour of Congress candidate Siddaramaiah, a former deputy chief minister.

The official was removed from duty.

The voting was marred by a slew of complaints from people in several constituencies, including Bangalore city, that their names were missing.

In upmarket R.T. Nagar area in Bangalore, scores of people demonstrated holding aloft their photo identity cards as their names were not found in the voters’ lists.

Similar complaints came from Koramangala, another upscale locality in Bangalore, and several of the other 10 districts, including Mysore and Tumkur.

In Hebbal in Bangalore city, police arrested 30 people for attempting bogus voting.

There was brisk polling in thickly populated areas and slums in Bangalore city whereas it was slow in middle-class and upmarket areas.

Over 950 candidates were in the fray Saturday.

Voting was held in 18,562 polling stations for 28 seats in Bangalore Urban district, four in Bangalore Rural district, 11 each in Mysore and Tumkur, seven each in Mandya and Hassan, six in Kolar, five in Chikkaballapur, four each in Ramanagaram and Chamarajanagar, and two in Kodagu.

Officials told IANS that polling began on a dull note in many booths across Bangalore during the first hour due to chilly weather, but it picked up from 8.30 a.m.

Prominent among Saturday’s candidates were central Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting H.M. Ambareesh (Congress) in Srirangapatna, Siddaramaiah and Parimala Nagappa (Bahujan Samaj Party) from Hannur segment in Chamarajanagar.

About 50,000 police personnel were deployed to ensure peaceful polling. Of 18,562 booths, 6,252, including 2,000 in Bangalore Urban district, were dubbed “hypersensitive” - official jargon to mean they could see violence.

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