Karnataka goes to polls today

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Polling to elect representatives from the 28 constituencies of Karnataka to the 16th Lok Sabha will take place today between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Thereafter, the candidates and the people have to endure a long wait of a month for the counting of votes and the results. It is one of the rare elections when the entire State goes for polling on a single day, although the same is the case with several of the south Indian States.

The State police, apart from the Bangalore City police, have made extraordinary arrangements for the smooth conduct of polling under close monitoring by the Election Commission.

While 54.6 per cent of the electorate cast their votes in the last Lok Sabha elections, much higher than in the last Assembly elections (52.8 per cent) held in May 2013, the voting percentage is expected to be higher today, given the manner in which the election authorities have educated and motivated the people during the past two months. The total number of eligible voters is around 4.62 crore.

Sources in political parties told The Hindu that the series of public holidays may encourage people to prefer a brief sojourn to voting. The polling day, a holiday, is followed by Good Friday and the weekend, with Easter. Political leaders had represented to the Chief Electoral Officer soon after the election calendar was announced and also sought a change of date for polling, but to no avail.

In all, 434 candidates are in the fray with the two national parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party fielding candidates in all the 28 constituencies, and the Janata Dal (Secular) in 24 constituencies, with two of its candidates choosing to retire during the run-up to the elections.

No pre-poll alliance

The Bahujan Samaj Party has also fielded candidates in 28 constituencies, while the two Left parties, CPI(M) and CPI, have fielded candidates in two and three constituencies respectively. Interestingly, none of the political parties here has had any pre-poll alliance.

Polls here stand out, since Karnataka is the only State where a former Prime Minister (H.D. Deve Gowda ) is contesting, apart from six Chief Ministers being in the fray.

Among the many technical features under test during the election, is the one in the Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency where VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trial) machines — an extension of the ballot machine — will display to the voter, the name of the candidate for whom the vote has been cast. It will be for a brief period of seven seconds and thereafter the small slip will drop into the machine well before the next voter can cast the vote. Interestingly, all the voting machines will also be Braille-compliant.

The other feature is in the Hassan constituency, where voters can ascertain, through the SMS service, the number of voters waiting at polling stations to cast their vote. The CEO has issued directions to all offices (government and private), commercial banks and other business establishments to declare a holiday, although employees of essential services will be given time off to cast their vote.

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