Bangalore: With less than a week to go for the Assembly elections campaigning is in full swing in Karnataka. The generals have now landed on the battlefield. After Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, now Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will start his tour of the state. He will first address a public meeting in Hubli which was a BJP stronghold till recently. But the question is whether Dr Singh will be able to motivate Bangaloreans to come out and vote as just 44 per cent did so last time.
Thirty-five per cent of the country's IT workforce is employed in Bangalore and ahead of the Karnataka polls, political parties are doing their best to woo this sizeable segment. Recent surveys show there are 50 lakh IT workers in the state and they can influence outcomes in 25 assembly seats.
The problem, though, is abysmal voter turnout among these professionals. In the 2008 Assembly elections, Bangalore registered just 44 per cent voting and in the 2009 General elections a mere 47 per cent. Nonetheless, political parties are keeping their hopes high.
Karnataka Janata Paksha leader Michael Fernandes said, "I am quite sure they'll make a difference to the outcome if they all turn up and vote." BJP spokesperson Kiran Reddy said, "We have placed extreme importance to the IT sector and we have also spread IT to the rural areas and are focussing now on establishing IT in other areas."
Public campaigns, though, have not yielded results before. Ajit Phadnis of the Loksatta Party said, "The root of the problem is that none of the political parties sincerely take up their issues and they feel they are not represented."
But many such as ITEC, a support group for IT employees in Bangalore, are hopeful of a change in the voters attitude this time. "The IT industry is a very vulnerable group. There are no labour laws and the global economy is down, so we just want to know what is the support system we have from the government," said Sandeep, an IT employee.
"Nowadays, every office encourages people to vote and they themselves give electronic forms and all. IT people by themselves have started realising their social responsibilities," said Bharati, another IT Employee. The big question now is whether this enthusiasm will turn into votes come May 5.