With the second and last phase of polling complete in Karnataka, the 14 constituencies recorded a voter turnout of 66.64% at 8 pm on April 23. The region — North Karnataka — witnesses a straight fight between the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress.
Congress party leaders like Mallikarjuna Kharge and Eshwar Khandre, and BJP’s Prahlad Joshi, Ananth Kumar Hegde and BY Raghavendra are some of the key leaders contesting from the area. The BJP fielded Congress rebel candidate Umesh Jadhav against Kharge in Gulbarga.
In Bellary (now Ballari) constituency, three villages — Muthukur, Chitiginahalu and Chikkajaiganur — boycotted polls in the early hours. Congress’ VS Ugrappa contests against BJP’s Devendrappa in the region. Villagers in Chitiginahalu and Chikkajaiganur decided to participate in the polling process after the district administration promised to sort out long-pending issues in their villages.
In Muthukur, in Hagaribommanahalli taluk, the panchayat officials said despite repeated requests, the authorities failed to meet their demand to shift gram panchayat headquarters to their village. And, hence, they decided to boycott polls.
Speaking to The Federal, Ramprasath Manohar, deputy commissioner of Ballari, said, “In Chitiginahalu and Chikkajaiganur villages, people complained of lack of basic infrastructure. The concerned authorities took note and promised to resolve the issue soon. The villagers started to voter later by noon.” The commissioner, however, said the officials could not convince the voters in Muthukur, which had about 1,000 voters in two polling stations.
Meanwhile, clashes erupted between the BJP and Congress workers in the city in Chikkodi Lok Sabha constituency.
After casting vote, BJP state leader BS Yeddyurappa exuded confidence about winning 22 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state. He added that his son BY Raghavendra would win with a margin of 1.5 lakh votes against JD(S) candidate Madhu Bangarappa.
Trouble brewing for ruling coalition
The ruling Congress-JD(S) government will see trouble after the Lok Sabha elections as the Gokak Congress MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi hinted at resigning from the party and joining the BJP. With the intention to topple the ruling government, the state BJP has tried to woo disgruntled MLAs ever since the coalition government formed last May.
Four dissident Congress MLAs — Ramesh Jarkiholi, Umesh Jadhav, Mahesh Kumathalli and B Nagendra — defied the party whip to attend the Congress Legislature Party meeting and Assembly budget session earlier this year.
The Congress-JD(S) combined to form the government with 118 MLAs in the 224-member legislative assembly. The majority mark is 113.
With the death of Congress MLA CS Shivalli and defection of Umesh Jadhav, the coalition strength reduced to 116. And as the alliance has chosen to field two sitting MLAs — Krishna Byre Gowda and Eshwar Khandre — the government’s tally will reduce to 114 if they win and choose to retain the MP seats.
With Jarkiholi threatening to resign, the coalition could face trouble in the days to come. The BJP, which had 106 seat, could take the tally up and call for a floor test. Jarkiholi did not campaign for the party candidate Prakash Hukkeri from Chikkodi. Instead, he allegedly sought vote for the BJP candidate Anna Saheb Jolle.
Speaking to reporters after casting his vote on April 23, Jarkiholi said,”Technically, I am still in the Congress. I haven’t resigned yet. I will announce my decision when the time is right.” He further took a dig at the Congress to say how the BJP’s state leadership sorted the issues by talking to Umesh Katti, to whom the BJP refused Lok Sabha ticket. “So far, the Congress hasn’t approached me,” he said.