Campaigning for second phase of 14 LS seats ends in Karnataka as 'sex scandal' dominates narrative

Tuesday's elections (May 7) matter the most for the BJP as it had bagged all those 14 seats in the 2019 polls.
Members of women's groups protest against MP Prajwal Revanna at Freedom Park in Bengaluru on May 3.
Members of women's groups protest against MP Prajwal Revanna at Freedom Park in Bengaluru on May 3.

BENGALURU: The campaigning for the second phase of polling in 14 Lok Sabha segments in Congress-ruled Karnataka ended on Sunday, with the "Hassan sex scandal" wading into the narrative in no small measure.

Tuesday's elections (May 7) matter the most for the BJP as it had bagged all those 14 seats in the 2019 polls.

Karnataka has a total of 28 Lok Sabha constituencies.

The first phase of elections for 14 segments was held on April 26.

Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have targeted the BJP over the alleged sex scandal involving Hassan JD (S) MP, Prajwal Revanna, in campaign rallies.

Rahul Gandhi alleged that Prajwal Revanna had raped 400 women, and lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for seeking votes for a "mass rapist" and sought his apology.

Prajwal, grandson of former prime minister and JD(S) patriarch H D Deve Gowda, is facing allegations of sexually abusing women.

The state government has set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the charges.

Prajwal Revanna was the JD(S)-BJP alliance candidate from Hassan seat which went to polls on April 26.

The JD(S) joined the BJP-led NDA in September last year.

The BJP, on the other hand, has attacked the government for alleged failure to "contain anti-national activities", and incidents of 'Love Jihad' and 'appeasement politics'.

The party leaders repeatedly referred to the bomb blast at a cafe here on March 1, the murder of 23-year-old Neha Hiremath on a college campus in Hubballi by Fayaz Khondunaik on April 18 and the raising of pro-Pakistan slogans in the corridors of Vidhana Soudha on February 27.

Speaking to reporters in the district headquarters town of Belagavi, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah today said, "In the first phase, we will win about eight to nine seats. In the second phase, we will win in 10 constituencies."

The Congress is also banking heavily on the state government's guarantee schemes and remains optimistic that they will pay the party electoral dividends.

Among the candidates in the fray for the May 7 polls is Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, who is seeking a fifth straight term from Dharwad.

There will be a by-poll to the Shorapur assembly constituency in Yadgir district on May 7 following the death of Congress MLA Raja Venkatappa Naik in February this year.

The 14 segments going to polls on Tuesday are: Belgaum (Belagavi), Uttara Kannada, Chikkodi, Bagalkot (Bagalkote), Bidar, Haveri, Dharwad, Koppal, Bellari (Ballari), Raichur, Bijapur (Vijayapura), Davangere and Shimoga (Shivamogga) and Gulbarga (Kalaburagi).

According to the Election Commission, 227 candidates are in the fray.

The BJP and the Congress have fielded 14 candidates each while the Bahujan Samaj Party is trying its luck in nine seats.

There are 117 independents.

Also, 73 people are fighting the election from registered unrecognised parties.

The 14 constituencies have 2.59 crore voters, the EC said, adding, there are a total of 28,257 main polling stations.

Among the BJP contestants are: former Chief Ministers Basavaraj Bommai (Haveri) and Jagadish Shettar (Belgaum), former Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri (Uttara Kannada) and former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa's son B Y Raghavendra (Shimoga).

Congress President M Mallikarjun Kharge's son-in-law Radhakrishna Doddamani is contesting from Gulbarga.

The Congress has fielded Minister Eshwar Khandre's son Sagar Khandre (Bidar), Minister Laxmi Hebbalkar's son Mrinal Hebbalkar (Belgaum), Minister Satish Jarkiholi's daughter Priyanka Jarkiholi (Chikkodi), Minister Shivanand Patil's daughter Samyukta Patil (Bagalkot) and Geetha Shivarajkumar, who is wife of Kannada film actor Shivarajkumar and daughter of former Chief Minister late S Bangarappa (Shimoga).

As Congress has fielded Karnataka Minister for Mines and Geology S S Mallikarjun's wife Prabha Mallikarjun from Davangere, the BJP gave ticket to Gayathri Siddeshwara, who is wife of MP G M Siddeshwara.

The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements to increase voter turnout amid the soaring temperatures in the 14 constituencies.

From arranging shamianas and tents, additional fans and drinking water facilities, to keeping ambulances on standby and using adjacent rooms of the polling booth as waiting areas, the Election Commission is making efforts to ensure that the polling percentage is not affected due to the "harsh summer".

In this first phase, Karnataka recorded 69.56 per cent voter turnout.

Speaking to PTI, Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer Manoj Kumar Meena said the constituencies where polling will take place on May 7 are in North Karnataka region and the temperature is slightly high there, "so we have made all necessary arrangements to ensure that people aren't deterred from coming out of their homes to vote."

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