Bengaluru: Polling for the high-stakes Karnataka assembly elections began on a peaceful note on Saturday morning under a thick security blanket.
In what is projected as a tight race, voting is being held in 222 out of 224 seats in a three-cornered contest among the ruling Congress, the BJP and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda’s JD(S).
The Election Commission on Friday deferred the polls for the Rajarajeswari Nagar constituency to May 28 after a massive row erupted over a large number of voter ID cards being found in an apartment.
Election for the Jayanagara seat in Bengaluru was countermanded following the death of BJP candidate and sitting MLA BN Vijaykumar.
Over 2,600 candidates are in the fray– more than 2,400 men and and over 200 women.
The total voters including service electors according to the 2018 final rolls are 5,06,90,538, of whom 2,56,75,579 male voters, 2,50,09,904 female and 5,055 transgender voters.
Officials said 58,008 polling stations have been set up across the state, of which 12,002 have been designated as “critical”, with over 3,50,000 polling personnel on duty.
Police have made elaborate security arrangements for the smooth conduct of polls that will go on till 6 pm. Counting of votes will take place on May 15.
“82,157 people have been deployed for poll duty that include DSPs, home guards and civil defence, and forest guards and watchers,” Karnataka DGP Neelamani N Raju said.
This also includes about 7,500 personnel from states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtram Chattisgarh, Kerala and Goa, she said, adding, central forces have been deployed.
The current polls are seen as one of the most complex the state had ever witnessed with many imponderables that have left most analysts to bet on a fractured mandate in a cliffhanger.
One among the interesting aspects of this election is four candidates who have served as chief minister of Karnataka are in the fray — current incumbent Siddaramaiah (Chamundeshwari and Badami), BS Yeddyurappa (Shikaripura), H D Kumaraswamy (Chennapatna and Ramanagara) and Jagadish Shettar (Hubli-Dharwad Central.)
State electoral authorities have also taken certain new initiatives such as SMS-based polling station access, app-based polling station access and navigation and queue status facility for a few polling stations with higher voter population.
Some special polling stations with ethnic look in primitive tribal areas have been established on a pilot basis. For the first time in Karnataka, one all women-managed polling station (Sakhi) has been set up in all rural assembly constituencies and five in each urban constituency (totalling 600 polling stations).