High-voltage Karnataka battle ends, millions vote

All three main contenders for power — the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal-Secular — claimed they would win hands down

Two newly married couples show their ink-marked fingers after casting their votes for Karnataka Assembly elections in Hubbali.

Bengaluru: A high-stake battle for the Karnataka Assembly ended on Saturday evening, with around 30 million voting in an election crucial for the ruling Congress as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal-Secular.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said he was “very very confident” that the Congress would retain power in the only major southern state it now rules as officials said more than 60 per cent of the over 50.6 million electorate had voted till 6pm.

“Voting has been peaceful by and large barring a few incidents of some non-functional EVMs, missing voter names and procedural delays,” an official said.

All three main contenders for power — the Congress, the BJP and the JD-S — claimed they would win hands down.

Claims of dirty tricks made by India’s two main parties cast a cloud over voting in the state Saturday after nearly 10,000 voting cards were seized by election authorities.

The Congress party, which has dominated Indian politics in the seven decades since independence, is fighting to retain its last major state, Karnataka, amid a fierce battle with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP.

Voting was postponed in one constituency after the discovery of the voting cards, which authorities suspect were obtained through bribes. Police have launched an investigation.

The state election commission said there was a plot to “vitiate the poll process” in Rajarajeshwari Nagar district of the state capital Bengaluru.

Congress and the BJP accused each other over the fraud. Voting in the district was pushed back to May 28.

Tens of thousands of security personnel were deployed across the state of 65 million people for voting. The results, which will have a major impact on campaigning for a national election next year, are to be announced on Tuesday.

The BJP’s Chief Ministerial face B.S. Yeddyurappa was among the first to vote at Shikaripura in Shivamogga district. He has claimed the BJP will secure 140-150 seats and that he will invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his swearing in.

Siddaramaiah ridiculed him after voting on Saturday, saying the BJP leader was “mentally disturbed” and that the Congress was sure of bagging more than 120 seats.

JD-S chief and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, his wife Chennamma and second son H.D. Revanna cast their votes in their hometown Holenarsipura in Hassan district.

“We expect a possibility of forming the government as we have done well to get a majority,” Deve Gowda told reporters.

Many in Bengaluru lined up outside polling centres since 6.30am to beat the early rush.

In all, voting is being conducted in 26 of the 28 constituencies in the city.

The electorate including 26 million men and 25 million women. A total of 1.54 million voters, aged 18-19, have registered for the first time.

The highest number of voters (603,000) are in Bengaluru South and the lowest (170,000) at Sringeri in Chikkamagaluru district.

Polling was held in 58,008 stations in 30 districts, with 600 of them dubbed ‘pink booths’, overseen by women personnel. More than 150,000 security personnel have been deployed.

In all, 2,654 candidates are in the fray, including 219 women. A total of 222 are from the Congress and BJP each, 201 from JD-S, 1,155 Independents and 800 from other national, regional and fringe parties. About 450 contestants are in the battle from Bengaluru.

Siddaramaiah is contesting from Chamundeshwari at Mysuru and Badami in Bagalkot district.

BJP’s Lok Sabha member from Ballari B.R. Sriramaulu, contesting from two seats including Badami and Molakamuru (reserved) seat in Chitradurga district, on Saturday worshipped a cow and visited temples before voting.

JD-S state president and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy is in the fray from Ramanagara and Channapatna seats. BJP state unit President Yeddyurappa is contesting from Shikaripura in Shivamogga district.

Siddaramaiah has fielded his son Yatindra from his hometown Varuna in Mysuru district.

Karnataka exit polls 2018 (Total seats: 222)

TIMES NOW – VMR 80-93 90-103 31-39 2-4
INDIA TODAY – AXIS 80-93 106-118 22-30 1-4
PRAJA NEWS – 24×7 102-110 72-78 35-39 0-5
REPUBLIC TV 95-114 73-82 32-43 2-3
DIGHVIJAY NEWS 95-114 73-82 32-43 2-3
NEW X – CNX 102-110 72-78 31-35 4-8
SUVARNA – 24×7 79-92 106-118 22-30 1-4
ABP NEWS – CVOTER 99-109 87-99 21-30 1-8
AAJ TAK – AXIS 79-92 106-119 22-30 0

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