Polling to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly took place today, with a voter turnout of 70.23 per cent. It was about 64.9 per cent in the 2008 elections.
There were 2,948 candidates across 223 constituencies. Voting for one seat, Periyapatna, in Mysore district, was put off following the death of the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate; polling for this seat would be on May 28. The counting will be on Wednesday at 36 centres, of which four are in this city.
Polling began at 7 am and witnessed strong turnout in the first three hours. Later, the pace slowed across the state, due to heat; the poll body had extended the time for voting by an hour, to 6 pm, for this reason. Voting was peaceful, except for some violence in Kolar district.
Voting was disrupted at several booths in Chikmagalur and Kodagu districts due to heavy rainfall in the evening. Three villages in Khanapur taluk of Belgaum district boycotted the vote, on the grounds that they'd seen no development in the past five years.
Bangalore City, which saw low turnout in 2008, had about 55 per cent voting. Ramanagara and Hassan districts reported the highest turnout, of 72.5 per cent and 72 per cent; Bidar, the northernmost district, had the lowest at 48.5 per cent. Bangalore Urban district reported 52.83 per cent voting; Bangalore Rural saw 67 per cent.
Other districts with over 65 per cent voting were Haveri (71 per cent), Davanagere (67 per cent), Chikkaballapur (69.8 per cent), Belgaum (67.6 per cent), Tumkur (68.9 per cent), Hassan (71 per cent), Mandya (66.4 per cent), Udupi (68.8 per cent) and Uttara Kannada (68.5 per cent).
Of the state's 61.1 million population, 43.6 mn are registered voters, comprising 22.2 mn men and 21.4 mn women. This city has 7.03 mn registered voters and 28 assembly segments. About 253,000 officials from state and central governments and state-run organisations were on poll duty, with 48,182 police personnel outside booths and about 100,000 additional forces around the booths.
There were about 2,000 mobile squads of five members each, including a photographer and a videographer.
For the first time, the election commission had arranged for webcasting of polling in 1,200 stations across the state, which received good response, said Anil Kumar Jha, chief electoral officer. "There are no possibilities of repoll in any constituency as of now. However, we will take a call after scrutinising the diaries of presiding officers tomorrow," he added.
If on May 8, the day of counting, the ruling BJP is ousted by the Congress, as is expected, this will mean a big boost for the latter's national leadership, buffetted by charges of corruption and poor governance.
Apart from the Congress and the BJP, B S Yeddyurappa, who split from the latter to form his own Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) is in the fray. So is the Janata Dal (Secular); both its head, H D Deve Gowda and his son, H D Kumaraswamy (both former chief ministers, as is Yeddyurappa). There is also interest in the fate of the Bellary mining families, led by the Lad brothers and the Reddy brothers.
Congress leaders say their assessment is that they are heading towards a simple majority and will be able to form a government on their own. In most of the 12 districts in north Karnataka, which sends 90 representatives to the Assembly, it is a three-way battle between BJP, Congress and KJP. For 88 seats in 11 districts in south Karnataka, including 28 seats in Bangalore Urban, the main contenders are the Congress and JD-S; the BJP is also a strong contender in Bangalore Urban.
It is a straight fight between BJP and the Congress in the three coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada, which together have 19 seats. In the four districts in central Karnataka, BJP and the Congress are the major contenders for the 26 seats.
In 2008, the BJP emerged as the single largest party despite garnering only 33.9 per cent of the vote share against 35.1 per cent for the Congress. A marginal shift in the vote share away from the BJP is expected to give the Congress a victory. The seeds of a BJP defeat are thought to lie in a split in the votes with Yeddyurappa. The Mumbai-Karnataka region, supposed to be Yeddyurappa's stronghold, contributes 33 seats to the 224-member Assembly. In the outgoing Assembly, 23 of these 33 seats were represented by BJP MLAs.