Karnataka: Polling underway

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Bangalore, May 5: Polling began on Sunday morning for the assembly polls in Karnataka in which the Congress has pulled out all the stops to return to power in a complex battle after more than an eight year long gap.

As many as 1.35 lakh police personnel -- 60,000 from the state, 20,000 home guards and rest from central paramilitary and neighbouring states -- have been deployed for the single phase poll in which more than 4.36 crore people are eligible to exercise their franchise.

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Polling which commenced at 7am would continue till 6pm with the timing extended by an hour in 223 assembly segments of the total 224.

Election in Periyapatna was countermanded to May 28 following the death of BJP candidate.

The ruling BJP, its main opponent Congress and JDS of former prime minister HD Deve Gowda are the key players, but the presence of Karnataka Janatha Party led by former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa has thrown in complexity.

Some poll surveys have predicted anti-incumbency swing against the BJP's first ever government in the South that they say would propel the Congress to be the single largest party or be within the striking distance of seat of power.

JDS is hoping to break new grounds beyond its stronghold in the old Mysore region, while KJP is aiming to play spoiler to BJP's chances. Both are fancying for themselves the role of a "king maker" in the event of a fractured mandate.

The poll fate of nearly 3,000 candidates would be sealed on Monday.

Prominent among them are chief minister Jagadish Shettar, opposition Congress leader Siddaramiah, Yeddyurappa, KPCC president G Parameshwara, deputy chief minsiters K S Eswarappa and R Ashoka.

Electoral authorities have set up about 52,000 booths of which about 10,000 have been identified as hypersensitive and more than as 14,000 as sensitive, which would come under the watchful eyes of officials with the help of web cameras.

As many as 65,000 electronic voting machines, which include about 10 per cent kept as reserve, are being used in the elections for which more than 2.5 lakh polling officers are on duty.

In the 2008 elections, BJP secured 110 seats, three short of majority and formed the government with the help of five independents who were made Ministers. Congress bagged 80 seats and JDS 28. The overall voter turnout then was 64.91 per cent.

The Election Commission and a number of NGOs have joined hands for vigorous campaigns to boost the voter turnout, particularly in the country's IT capital of Bangalore.

PTI

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