Bangalore, Dec 26: Around 55 percent of the over 10 million electorate in 12 Karnataka districts voted Sunday in the first round of bitterly-fought elections to the local governing councils, an official said.
“Around 55 percent voting has taken place according to preliminary information from districts,” a spokesperson of the state election commission told IANS.
Voting for 375 zilla (district) and 1,340 taluka (sub-district) panchayat seats was peaceful, though there were complaints of missing names, attempts at bogus voting, malfunctioning of electronic voting machines and distribution of money to voters, the spokesperson said.
Polling booths opened at 7 a.m. and balloting started on a dull note due to the chilly weather but picked up later, he said. The booths closed at 5 p.m.
For the first time, electronic voting machines (EVMs) were used in the district polls.
Balloting was held in Bangalore urban, Bangalore rural, Ramanagaram, Chitradurga, Kolar, Chikballapur, Shimoga, Tumkur, Bidar, Bellary, Raichur and Yadgir districts.
In the second phase, 17 districts will vote Dec 31 and the following day Gulbarga district will vote. Counting is slated for Jan 4.
It is a triangular contest between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) at most of the places.
The elections are being held against the backdrop of Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa getting the BJP leadership’s backing to stay on in office despite allegations that he favoured his kin with prime land in and around Bangalore.
Yeddyurappa has maintained that the charges were baseless and would not have any impact on BJP’s prospects in the three-phase polls, mostly in rural and semi-urban areas.
He has won the reprieve from the leadership, promising he would lead the party to victory in these polls, like he did in the 2008 assembly and 2009 Lok Sabha polls in the state.
The Congress and the JD-S have focused on corruption and nepotism in BJP’s first government in the state, while Yeddyurappa and his colleagues have been highlighting the government’s welfare measures to woo the voters.
The poll outcome is crucial for all the three parties.
A win in majority of zilla panchayats and taluka panchayats will help ease pressure on the BJP to remove Yeddyurappa and will allow the party to choose the time to effect a change in the state leadership.
For the Congress, a victory will be a morale booster as the party has fared poorly in all the elections since the 2008 assembly polls — the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, bypolls to the assembly and council in the last two years and it even conceded the Bangalore civic body to the BJP for the first time at the beginning of this year.
A victory of the JD-S will not push it into irrelevance in the state politics and strengthen its claim that state Congress alone was not capable of taking on the BJP. –(IANS)