About 6 per cent of the electorate cast their votes Saturday in the first two hours of polling for the by-elections to three Lok Sabha and two assembly constituencies in Karnataka. While the Lok Sabha constituencies of Shivamogga, Ballari and Mandya recorded 7.16 per cent, 4.4 per cent and 4.18 per cent voting respectively till 9 am, Ramanagara and Jamkhandi assembly constituencies have recorded 7.34 and 9 per cent polling. Voting began at 7 am and will go on till 6 pm. A total of 54,54,275 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in about 6,450 polling stations. There are a total 31 candidates in the fray in all the five constituencies, though the contest is mainly between the Congress-JD(S) combine and the BJP. Counting of votes will be on November 6. The Congress and the JD(S), which have come together in a post-poll alliance after the assembly elections in May this year threw up a hung House, are facing the polls unitedly against the BJP, which they perceive as their common enemy.
While the Congress has fielded its candidates in Jamkhandi and Ballari, the JD(S) is contesting in Shivamogga, Ramanagara and Mandya under an electoral understanding. A total of 1,502 polling stations have been declared as sensitive, election officials said. A total of 35,495 polling personnel are on duty for the bypolls in which 8,922 voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) will be used, they said. The outcome of the bypolls is expected to have a bearing on the alliance between the Congress and the JD(S) for the 2019 polls. The BJP, which has been questioning the longevity of the coalition government, has predicted its fall once the bypoll results are out. Among the prominent candidates in the fray is Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy's wife Anita Kumaraswamy, who is expected to have a smooth sailing. She is facing a virtual no-contest in Ramanagara after BJP nominee L Chandrashekhar withdrew from the contest and rejoined the Congress, in a jolt days before the polls.
The BJP had lodged a complaint with the Election Commission about the developments in Ramanagara and requested it to "annul" the elections immediately. In Jamkhandi, Congress candidate Anand Nyamagowda, the son of former MLA Siddu Nyamagouda, is pitted against Srikant Kulkarni of the BJP. In Shivamogga, state BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa's son B Y Raghavendra is testing his fortunes against another former chief minister S Bangarappa's son Madhu Bangarappa of the JD(S). In Ballari, senior BJP leader Sriramulu's sister J Shantha is fighting against V S Ugrappa of the Congress, considered an outsider. In the Vokkaliga bastion of Mandya, JD(S)'s Shivarame Gowda, is pitted against a fresh face in Dr Siddaramaiah, a retired commercial tax officer from the BJP. The by-elections have been necessitated after Yeddyurappa (Shivamogga) and Sriramalu (Ballari), and C S Puttaraju of JD(S) (Mandya) resigned as MPs on their election to the assembly in May this year. Bypolls to Jamkhandi assembly seat was caused by the death of Congress MLA Siddu Nyamagouda, while Ramanagara fell vacant after Kumaraswamy gave up the seat preferring to retain Chennapatna, the other constituency from where he had won.