The stage is set for 4.62 crore voters of Karnataka to elect representatives for 28 Lok Sabha constituencies on Thursday. Elaborate arrangements, including installation of CCTV cameras, have been made to ensure that the world’s biggest democratic exercise is smooth and peaceful. Polling for the 16th Lok Sabha will seal the fate of the state’s political superstars, including former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, former chief ministers H D Kumaraswamy, Veerappa Moily, B S Yeddyurappa, Dharam Singh and D V Sadananda Gowda and Union Ministers Mallikarjun Kharge and K H Muniyappa. The polls will also decide the fate of India’s richest candidate Nandan Nilekani, who is trying his luck from Bangalore South as a Congress candidate, young leaders like Congress candidate Ramya and State Youth Congress chief Rizwan Arshad. The polls are already being projected as a watershed, with the main contender BJP adopting a presidential-style strategy. It has made it a personalitycentric contest between its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and the rest. Weaving its electoral strategy around Modi’s “strong leadership qualities” and “able administration skills”, the BJP is on a blitzkrieg to exploit the “voters’ disappointment” with the Congress-led UPA government’s 10-year rule. With the use of new-age media and Modi’s smart plans to connect with the upwardly mobile Indian educated youth, the BJP is confident of seeing Modi as the next Prime Minister. With no strong and clean leader to lead the charge in the state, it is no wonder the BJP depended on Modi for campaigning. The party tapped the 3D holography technology to bring “virtual Modi” to the masses even in remote areas. The Congress, unable to project a strong leader as its prime ministerial candidate and carrying the weight of antiincumbency, is fighting with its back to the wall. Having lost many allies, the party is now looking up to its chief ministers to shore up its fortunes. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has been asked to deliver at least 20 seats and he has responded by touring all the constituencies, addressing over 90 rallies in one month. He is said to be under threat if the Congress fails to win at least 12 to 14 seats.
For JD(S), the third outfit in the race, it is a fight for the very existence of its identity. This is reflected in the fact that former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda had to go back on his own promise that only one member from his family would contest the polls. Former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy has been forced to enter the fray from Chikballapur with hopes of a role at the Centre if the voters deliver a fractured mandate. Considered relatively peaceful, Karnataka is going to polls in a single phase amid hopes of a high turnout. The Election Commission and several NGOs have been conducting intense awareness campaigns to inspire voters to come out and exercise their franchise. The state had recorded 71.29 pc polling in the previous Assembly election, which is the highest in the last 35 years. The 2009 Lok Sabha election in the state had witnessed 58.88 pc voting. The poll percentage this time is expected to see a significant rise, said Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka Anil Kumar Jha. However, he also stated that generally the polling in Assembly elections are generally a little higher than the Lok Sabha polls.The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements to ensure free and fair polling with deployment of over 60,000 security personnel. In all, 6,072 CCTV cameras have been installed and 2,687 polling stations will have webcast facility.Jha, participating in a ‘Meet the Press’ programme, organised by the Bangalore Press Club and Reporters’ Guild warned of stringent action against companies and establishments which fail to declare paid holiday to enable their workers to exercise their franchise. The punishment will not be significant but the long procedure for punishment could disturb employers, he said.Bangalore South is among the seven constituencies in the country chosen by the Election Commission for Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail system on an experimental basis. “It is a printer with drop box. It prints and displays a slip for seven seconds after the vote is cast so that a citizen can also see who he cast his vote for. The slip will then get automatically dropped into the drop box next to the electronic voting machine and can’t be retrieved. Around 100 polling booths in Bangalore South will have this facility,’’ he said.