Karnataka elections: 8.26% turnout in first two hours of polling

A total of 5,31,33,054 electors are eligible to cast their vote in 58,545 polling stations across the state, where 2,615 candidates are in the fray

A voter turnout of 8.26 per cent was recorded in the first two hours of polling in Karnataka Legislative Assembly elections on Wednesday (May 10), according to Election Commission data.

The highest percentage was in the coastal district of Udupi (13.28 per cent) and the lowest in Chamarajanagar district (5.75 per cent) till 9 am.

Polling for the Assembly elections began early on Wednesday (May 10), in a state where the ruling BJP is eyeing to script history by retaining its southern citadel while a combative Congress eyes a comeback ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

The voting is being held across 224 constituencies.

Also read: Bengaluru: In tight assembly contest, 50:50 chances for BJP, Congress

Voting has also begun for the bypolls in Meghalaya’s Sohiong, Odisha’s Jharsuguda, Punjab’s Jalandhar and Suar and Chhanbey seats in Uttar Pradesh.

The assembly election in Karnataka is mainly a three-pronged contest between the ruling BJP, the Congress and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular).

The electoral fate of top guns – Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, Congress veterans Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar and JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy – among others will be sealed during the day-long exercise. Counting of polled votes will be taken up on May 13.

5 crore voters to cast ballot

The voting that began at 7 am amid tight security will go on till 6 in the evening. A total of 5,31,33,054 electors are eligible to cast their vote in 58,545 polling stations across the state, where 2,615 candidates are in the fray. Among the electors, 2,67,28,053 are male, 2,64,00,074 female and 4,927 “others”, while among the candidates 2,430 are male, 184 female and one from third gender.

Also read: Bengaluru: In tight assembly contest, 50:50 chances for BJP, Congress

While the BJP wants to break the 38-year jinx – the state has never voted the incumbent party to power since 1985 – and tighten the grip on its southern stronghold, the Congress is seeking to wrest power to give the party the much-needed elbow room and momentum to position itself as the main opposition player in the 2024 parliamentary polls.

Modi urges youth to vote

Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the people of Karnataka to vote in large numbers and “enrich the festival of democracy”.

“Urging the people of Karnataka, particularly young and first time voters to vote in large numbers and enrich the festival of democracy,” he tweeted.

Taking a dig at the BJP, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi urged the voters of the state to build a “40% commission-free, progressive Karnataka.”

“Karnataka’s vote for 5 guarantees, for women’s rights, for youth employment, for the upliftment of the poor. Come, vote in large numbers.” “Let’s build a 40%-commission-free, progressive Karnataka together,” Rahul tweeted.

Security beefed up at polling stations

Also what needs to be seen is, whether the JD (S) will emerge as a “kingmaker” or a “king” by holding the key for government formation, in the event of a hung verdict, as it has done in the past. A total of 75,603 Ballot Units (BU), 70,300 Control Units (CU) and 76,202 voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) are slated to be used during the voting.

According to poll officials, elaborate security arrangements have been made across the state for the smooth conduct of elections and forces have been deployed from neighbouring states as well. As many as 84,119 State Police Officers and 58,500 CAPF (Central Armed Police Forces ) police in 650 CoYs (companies) are on law and order and security duty on poll day across the state.

Critical polling stations have been covered by one or more of the measures like Micro Observers, Webcasting and CCTVs to keep a watch on the polling process as force multipliers.

Also read: On last 2 poll campaign days, Priyanka impresses with mega Bengaluru rallies

The voter turnout in the 2018 polls was 72.36 per cent. In a bid to check apathy among voters, the Election Commission has come up with the idea of holding the poll in the middle of the week to prevent people planning an outing by clubbing the poll-day holiday with the weekend break.

Candidates in fray

Chief Minister Bommai (Shiggaon), Leader of Opposition and former chief minister Siddaramaiah (Varuna), JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy (Channapatna), Shivakumar (Kanakapura) are the among the top candidates in the fray. Besides Siddaramaiah and Kumaraswamy, Jagadish Shettar (Hubli-Dharwad Central) is the other former chief minister who is contesting this election. Shettar had recently joined the Congress, quitting BJP.

“A government with full majority” seemed to be the war cry of the leaders of all the political parties during campaigning that ended on Monday, as they stressed on getting a clear mandate to form a strong and stable government, unlike what happened after the 2018 polls.

In the 2018 Assembly elections, BJP emerged as the single largest party by winning 104 seats, followed by Congress at 80, JD(S) 37. There was one independent member, while BSP and Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janata Party (KPJP) had one legislator each. With no party having a clear majority and as the Congress and JD(S) were trying to forge an alliance, B S Yediyurappa of BJP staked claim and formed the government. However, it had to resign within three days ahead of the trust vote, unable to muster the required numbers.

Also read: Karnataka’s ‘missing women’: Where did the women candidates go this time?

Subsequently, the Congress-JD(S) alliance formed the government with Kumaraswamy as chief minister, but the wobbly dispensation collapsed in 14 months, as 17 legislators resigned and came out of the ruling coalition, and defected to BJP facilitating the party coming back to power. In the bypolls held subsequently in 2019, the ruling party won 12 out of 15 seats. In the outgoing Assembly, BJP has 116 MLAs, followed by the Congress at 69, JD(S)–29, BSP one, two Independents, Speaker one and vacant six (following deaths and resignation to join other parties ahead of polls).

(With inputs from agencies)