Karnataka Polls: Congress Faces Mega BJP Challenge

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Bengaluru: It could well be Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s toughest electoral battle, facing an aggressive campaign from rival BJP powered by its best-known face in Karnataka BS Yeddyurappa and the PM Narendra Modi-Amit Shah team. Now, the noise, dust and hubbub of the campaign for the Karnataka assembly elections has settled down and it is time for nearly 5 crore people across 222 seats to vote today. And the police say security arrangements are in place to ensure that there are no problems either.

Electronic voting machines, or EVMs, have been moved out from their well-guarded storage locations and sent to different polling booths. This election will see the use of VVPATS – another of the much-loved abbreviation this country seems to appreciate – this time for Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail. This will allow people to confirm that their vote has been correctly registered.

In all, there will be around 1.4 lakh police personnel deployed across the state on election duty. “This will include police persons from Karnataka and other states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and others such as home guards and prison warders.,” says senior Karnataka police officer Kamal Pant.

In IT hub Bengaluru alone, the police will deploy over 10,500 police personnel across the city’s 26 assembly constituencies. Plus, there would be staffers from central police forces and reserves from the state police. The Election Commission had on Friday put off polling in the city’s RR Nagar constituency after nearly 10,000 voter ID cards were found from a Bengaluru apartment.

The BJP is contesting in 222, the Congress in 220 and the JDS-BSP combine in 218. 180 sitting legislators are contesting. There are other 1,142 independent candidates as well.

Flying squads set up to ensure that the candidates don’t cross the line have made cash seizure of almost 13 crore rupees since assembly elections were announced in April. And it isn’t just cash – items worth another 19 crores were seized including clothes, cookers, mixer grinders, sewing machines, caps – and a whopping 44 kg of gold ornaments.

“Seizures worth Rs. 166 crore have been made. The police have been actively involved in that. And everyone is satisfied with the work done by the flying squads. The results this time has been better than last time, so everyone is happy with it,” Mr Kant said. That includes 25, 290 litres of liquor seized by the teams.

The spike in seizures is seen as a reflection of the increased role of money power in the election. There was one silver lining. Karnataka police chief Neelamani N Raju, said, “There have been no election-related communal instances.”

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