The crucial byelection to 15 Karnataka assembly constituencies that would have a bearing on the stability of the BS Yediyurappa-led BJP government saw an estimated 66.49 per cent voter turnout on Thursday and was by and large peaceful. After a slow pace in the first half of the day since polling began at 7 am with only 33 per cent till 1.30 pm, voting picked up later in the day though it was below the percentage recorded in the assembly elections in 2018.
The four constituencies in the city clocked poor voter turn outs. Officials said an estimated 66.49 per cent of the 37.78 lakh eligible electors cast their votes in the 15 segments till 6 pm. The figure was likely to go up as at some places people standing in queues at close were allowed to vote.
According to the figures available, the highest turnout of 90.44 per cent was recorded in Hosakote while the lowest of 43.25 per cent at KR Puram here. City’s three other constituencies too have recorded comparatively lower turnout, Mahalakshi Layout 50.92 per cent, Shivajinagar 44.60, Yeshwanthpura 54.13 per cent.
Turnout in other constituencies are: Athani- 75.23 per cent, Kagwad 76.27, Gokak 73.08, Yellapur 77.52, Hirekerur 78.63, Ranebennur 73.53, Vijayanagara 64.95, Chikkaballapura 86.40, K R Pete 80, and Hunsur- 80.71, officials said.
The byelections are being held to fill the vacancies caused by the disqualification of 17 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs, whose revolt led to the collapse of the HD Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in July and paved the way for the BJP to come to power.
The BJP needs to win at least six of the seats to remain in majority in the 225-member assembly (including the Speaker, who has a casting vote), which would still have two vacant seats—Maski and RR Nagar.
In the Assembly with the current strength of 208 after the disqualifications, the BJP has 105 MLAs (including an independent), the Congress 66 and the JD(S) has 34 MLAs. There is also one BSP member, a nominated member and the Speaker.
While the BJP exuded confidence that the people will vote in favour of the party for stability and development, the Congress and JD(S) are optimistic that the voters will defeat the defectors, who have been disqualified and are now the ruling party candidates.
BJP has fielded 13 of the 16 disqualified legislators, who joined the party following the Supreme Court allowing them to contest the bypolls, as its candidates from their respective constituencies from where they had won in the 2018 assembly elections on Congress and JD(S) tickets.
While in most of the constituencies that went for the bypolls there was direct contest between Congress and BJP, in the southern parts of the state JD(S) comes into the picture, making it a triangular fight.
In Hosakote however, BJP rebel and independent candidate supported by JD(S) Sharth Bachegowda is a key factor.
Speculations are rife about Congress and JD(S) not being averse to joining hands once again to form a coalition government in case the BJP fails to garner the required number of seats to stay in majority.
Besides Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, whose governments future is at stake, the bypoll results are crucial for CLP leader Siddaramaiah who faced growing discotent against his unilateral style of functioning and selection of candidates for the polls.
The poll outcome is also keenly awaited by JD(S) Kumaraswamy who aims to keep his party flock together amid threats of further internal bickering. Among 15 constituencies going to the bypolls, 12 were held by Congress and three by JD(S). A total of 4,185 polling stations were set up in the 15constituencies.
The fate of 165 candidates -- 156 men and ninewomen— were sealed in the voting machines. While BJP and Congress had 15 candidates each in the fray, the number of JD(S) candidates was 12. Remaining were all from smaller parties and independents.
Bypolls have been by and large peaceful, barring some stray incidents of arguments between workers of political parties and with police at some places like in Hunsur, officials said. Tension prevailed in Hunsur after a Police Inspector allegedly asked MLA C Anil and his supporters to move away from the polling centre.
There were reports of electronic voting machines malfunctioning due to technical problems in some places like Singayyanapalya in KR Pura, Athani and Hunsur among others, but they were set right and voting resumed, officials said. Senior citizens and differently-abled citizens came out in good numbers to cast their votes at several places.
The bypolls were earlier slated for October 21 but the Election Commission had deferred them to December 5 in view of then pendency of petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the disqualification of the 17 MLAs. The apex court last month allowed them to contest the bypolls, while upholding their disqualification by the then Assembly speaker.