Bengaluru: An estimated 2.43 crore electorates will test Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity as 14 out of 28 constituencies in Karnataka go to the polls in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections on Thursday amid tight security.
“Elaborate arrangements have been made across the state’s central and southern regions for free and fair polling in 30,164 booths spread over 14 parliamentary seats from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. amid tight security,” state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Sanjiv Kumar told IANS here on Wednesday.
The 14 constituencies are: Udupi-Chikmagalur, Hassan, Dakshina Kannada, Chitradurga (SC), Tumkur, Mandya, Mysore, Chamarajnagar (SC), Bangalore Rural, Bangalore North, Bangalore Central, Bangalore South, Chikkaballapur and Kolar (SC).
Polling in the remaining 14 seats will be held in the west coast and northern regions of the state in the third phase on April 23.
Of the 2.43 crore electorates for Thursday’s polling, 1.23 crore are male and 1.20 crore are female voters who will decide the fate of 241 candidates, including 15 women and 133 Independent nominees.
Of the 15 women in fray, only one, BJP’s Shobha Karandlaje from Udupi, belongs to a national party while 7 are Independents, including actress Sumalatha Ambareesh.
The Congress and its ruling ally Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) have not fielded any woman candidate for Thursday’s polling for want of winnable candidates, though both have one woman candidate each for the third phase of polling scheduled for April 23.
According to Karnataka Director General of Police (DGP) Neelamani Raju, Bangalore Rural, Hassan, Mandya and Tumkur are the vulnerable constituencies where additional police forces have been deployed for peaceful and smooth conduct of polling.
“Of the total booths, 16 per cent or 4,826 are considered critical in the four seats identified by the police.
“We are deploying about 91,000 police personnel on election duty in two phases on April 18 and April 23 to ensure peaceful polling and maintain law and order,” Raju said in a statement here.
Among the constituencies, Bangalore North has the highest number of 31 candidates, followed by 25 in Bangalore South and 22 each in Bangalore Central, Mandya and Mysore.
The lowest number of candidates is 6 in Hassan, followed by 10 in Chamarajnagar, 12 in Udupi-Chikmagalur and 13 in Dakshina Kannada.
The key constituencies in the first phase are all the three seats in Bengaluru, Mandya, Hassan and Tumkur.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, of the 14 seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress won 6 each while the JD-S won 2.
Unlike in the past elections, the main parties — BJP and Congress — are locked in straight contests this time, as the latter has entered into a pre-poll tie-up with the JD-S to field joint candidates as part of their seat-sharing arrangements.
Of the 28 seats in the state, the Congress is in fray in 21 and the JD-S in 7. For the 14 seats that go to the polls on Thursday, Congress is in fray in 10 and the JD-S in 4.
The BJP is contesting 13 seats besides supporting multi-lingual South Indian actress Sumalatha Ambareesh (55), who’s contesting as an Independent from the high-profile Mandya seat where the JD-S has fielded Nikhil Gowda.
Nikhil (29), an upcoming Kannada film star, is the son of Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and the grandson of 86-year-old JD-S supremo H.D. Deve Gowda, who is contesting from Tumkur, paving way for his other grandson Prajwal Gowda to fight from Hassan, a bastion of the dynastic Gowda clan.
Prajwal is the son of state PWD Minister H.D. Revanna, who is the second eldest son of Deve Gowda.
The JD-S has high stakes in the battle of the ballot as three members of the Gowda clan are in the fray.
Deve Gowda, who had won a record nine times from Hassan since 1991, also served as the Prime Minister for 10 months from June 1, 1996 to April 21, 1997 as the head of the United Front-Left Front government, which fell after the Congress withdrew outside support to it.
In Bengaluru, which has three parliamentary seats, the BJP and the Congress are locked in straight contests.
BJP leader and Union Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda is re-contesting from Bangalore North, while two-time sitting MP P.C. Mohan is trying for a hat-trick from the prestigious Bangalore Central seat.
The Congress has fielded its state Minister Krishna Byre Gowda against Sadananda Gowda in Bangalore North, where the politically dominant Vokkaliga community are present in large numbers.
In Bangalore South, the BJP has fielded Tejasvi Surya in place of former Union Minister A.H. Ananth Kumar, who passed away in November 2018 after brief illness. Kumar represented the seat for a record six times since 1996.
Surya, a 28-year-old lawyer in the Karnataka High Court, is also a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and is known to be a fiery orator. He is pitted against B.K. Hariprasad, a Congress Rajya Sabha member from the state.
Former Congress Ministers in the UPA government — M. Veerappa Moily and K.H. Muniyappa — are in the fray from Chikkaballaupur and Kolar, respectively.
BJP’s Nalin Kumar Kateel and Pratap Simha are re-contesting from Dakshina Kannada and Mysore, respectively.