Around 60 percent voting in by-polls to eight Karnataka assembly seats


Bangalore : Around 60 percent of nearly 1.3 million eligible voters Saturday cast their vote in by-elections to eight assembly seats in Karnataka, where the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prestige is at stake.

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“About 60 percent voting has been recorded,” a state election commission official said after the polling ended at 5 p.m. The votes will be counted Dec 30.

Seven of the eight by-elections were caused after three Congress and four Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) legislators resigned from the assembly to join the ruling BJP. The eighth follows the death of JD-S legislator M.S. Siddaraju.

Though there are 73 candidates in the fray, the battle is between the BJP, Congress and JD-S.

The campaign was marred by attempts to distribute money, liquor and other inducements to voters.

According to state chief electoral officer M.N. Vidyashankar, Rs.3.2 million in cash and liquor worth Rs.12 million meant for distribution among voters had been seized in the last few days from the eight constituencies.

The state election authorities had declared all the 1,613 polling booths in the eight constituencies as sensitive in view of the stakes for the BJP and the two opposition parties.

The focus is on Madhugiri, about 90 km from Bangalore, where former prime minister and JD-S president H.D. Deve Gowda has fielded his daughter-in-law Anita Kumaraswamy against JD-S ‘defector’ C. Chennigappa, who is contesting as a BJP candidate.

The by-polls are a prestige issue for the BJP as it has included four ‘defectors’ in its ministry and all of them are contesting as BJP candidates.

The four are Balachandra Jarkhiholi, K. Shivana Gouda Naik and Umesh Katti (all formerly of JD-S), and Anand Asnotikar (formerly Congress). Jarkhiholi is contesting from Arabhavi, Gouda Naik from Devadurga, Katti from Hukkeri and Asnotikar from Karwar.

The other three constituencies where by-polls are being held are Doddaballapur, Turuvekere and Maddur. In Maddur, the bypoll follows the death of the JD-S legislator.

Anita, the 44-year-old wife of former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, is a businesswoman who runs Kasturi, a Kannada TV channel.

Anita is the fourth member of the Gowda family to enter politics. Besides her husband and father-in-law, her brother-in-law H.D. Revanna is also in politics. Revanna was a minister in his younger brother Kumaraswamy’s cabinet in 2006-2007.

The BJP had won 110 seats in the May assembly polls, three short of a majority. But it formed its first government in south India with the support of six independents. Five of them were made ministers.

The party then decided to lure legislators from the JD-S and the Congress to reduce dependence on the independents for the government’s survival.