Bangalore: An estimated 69 per cent of the about 4.36 crore electorate voted in the largely peaceful Assembly polls in Karnataka on Sunday amid projections that the beleaguered ruling BJP was on a sticky wicket against a resurgent Congress. The 7 am to 6 pm vote kicked off on a brisk pace initially but appeared to lose steam as the mercury soared before picking up momentum again in the last hours in 223 segments, where a total of 2,940 candidates were in the fray.
Election in Periyapatna in Mysore district had been put off to May 28 following the death of the BJP candidate. "Polling was peaceful. We have no reports of poll disruptions," Joint Chief Electoral Officer T Shamaiah said, adding that polling was 60.68 per cent till 5 pm.
Election Commission officials said the figure was estimated to be around 69 per cent by the close, but the exact poll percentage is expected later following compilation from all the segments. The counting will be done on May 8. Prominent candidates included Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah, President of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee G Parameshwara, former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and JDS state unit President HD Kumaraswamy.
Authorities had made elaborate security arrangements with some 1.35 lakh police personnel on duty in some 52,000 polling booths where about 65,000 electronic voting machines had been installed. Barring sporadic incidents, including one at Bellary, the voting was largely peaceful.
Breakaway parties - Karnataka Janatha Paksha of former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and BSR Congress formed by former Minister B Sriramulu - are projected to dent the prospects of the BJP, already battered by intra-party fights and allegations of corruption.
Pre-poll surveys have predicted that the Congress is all set to emerge as the single largest party or be at a striking distance of coming to power in the elections. The strength of BJP, which won 110 seats in the 2008 elections, is forecast to come down by more than half, and that of JDS to improve by a dozen seats compared to 28 the last time around.
Police have arrested four persons who were openly wielding swords in the district headquarters town of Kolar, adding that a major clash was averted between supporters of an independent and a political party.
At Sidlagatta in Chikkaballapura district, one person sustained serious injuries after being attacked by supporters of another party. In a Bellary booth, a voter was allegedly hit by a policeman over a trivial issue and sustained injuries in the ear. Meanwhile, Leelavathi Mekki, a 28-year-old teacher, who reported for poll duty on Saturday at Negalur in Haveri district complained of chest pain and died today in neighbouring Davangere, where she was shifted.
In the 2008 elections to the total of 224 seats, the BJP, with 33.86 per cent of the votes polled, secured 110 seats, followed by the Congress (34.59) 80 seats and JDS (19.13) 28 seats. While the overall voter turnout was 64.91 per cent in the 2008 elections, the average in the 28 segments of Bangalore was a low 47.3 per cent. The lowest in Bangalore was in Sarvajnanagar at 35.40 per cent.
With Additional Inputs from PTI