Brisk polling in Karnataka by-election


Bangalore : Undeterred by scorching heat in some areas and intermittent rains in others, hundreds of voters began assembling at the polling booths in Ullal in coastal Karnataka about 375 km from Bangalore to cast their votes since polling started from 7 a.m. Saturday.

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"About 40 percent voting has been registered till 2 p.m. in all segments of the Ullal assembly constituency. Polling is underway peacefully barring a few complaints of voters' names missing from electoral rolls and attempts to cast bogus votes," a poll official told IANS.

The by-election, necessitated by the death of Congress legislator U.T. Fareed, has turned into a close contest for the opposition Congress and the two ruling parties, Janata Dal- Secular (JD-S) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which have fielded separate candidates.

The Congress has fielded Fareed's son U. T. Khader while the BJP has nominated Chandrashekar Uchil, who lost to Fareed in the 2004 poll. The JD-S has fielded Aboobacker Natekal.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) candidate Balakrishna Shetty and Bharathraj Shetty, an independent cadidate, are the other two contenders in the fray.

About 40 percent of the total electorate belongs to the minority community. Though Muslims constitute the largest vote bank, the BJP is counting on the support of non-minority votes, especially the 35,000-strong Billava fishing community as its candidate belongs to that community.

The state election commission has made elaborate security arrangements in the 140 polling booths, including 56 hyper-sensitive and 70 sensitive booths to conduct an orderly and peaceful poll.

"About 1100 police personnel, including 25 mobile patrol units and seven special security forces have been deployed across the constituency to prevent untoward incidents in its communally sensitive areas," a poll official said.