Barring a few instances of boycott and an overarching presence of the pandemic, polling for the byelections to the Belagavi Lok Sabha constituency and Maski and Basavakalyan Legislative Assembly constituencies passed off smoothly on Saturday.
Maski Assembly segment recorded the highest polling percentage of 70.48 followed by Basavakalyan – 59.57 and Belagavi Lok Sabha constituency – 54.61. Unmindful of the scorching sun, people came out to vote in good numbers in Basavakalyan and Maski.
While Maski recorded an increase in polling percentage when compared with that in the 2018 Assembly election (68.98%), Basavakalyan and Belagavi recorded a lower voting percentage when compared with the 2018 Assembly election (64.85%) and the 2019 Lok Sabha election (67.21%), respectively.
Polling in all the three constituencies began on a slow pace but picked up by noon. The Election Commission had made arrangements to ensure adherence to the COVID-19 guidelines during the polling process, including markings for queues. Maintaining physical distance and wearing of masks were ensured strictly and hand sanitisers were offered to the voters.
In Basavakalyan, Congress candidate Mala B. Narayana Rao, wife of the late B. Narayana Rao (whose death necessitated the byelection), visited the samadhi of her husband before proceeding to cast her vote.
At Halapur village, the police detained a man after it was found that he was distributing voters’ slips having the name of the Congress candidate. At Vatagal village, a man was detained after his video of casting vote went viral on social media.
Polling in the Belagavi Lok Sabha constituency began on a dull note with only 5.54% the electorate casting their votes in the first two hours. Although it subsequently picked up, the turnout it is far less than what was recorded in 2019.
Voters of Hire Tadasi and Chikka Tadasi villages near Ramdurg boycotted polling in protest against the delay in release of compensation to farmers who suffered flood damage in 2019 and 2020. “We are tired of submitting memorandum after memorandum to the tahsildar and the Deputy Commissioner. We have made several requests to Ministers, the MLA and the MP but to no avail,” a farmers’ representative said.
Candidate in PPE kit
In Maski, BJP candidate Pratapgouda Patil, who has tested positive for COVID-19, cast his vote on Saturday wearing PPE kit at the government school in the Killa locality. Like him, several COVID-19 patients were allowed to vote following all precautions during the last hour.
The former Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi, who is recuperating from COVID-19, did not come to the booth to vote in Gokak on Saturday. Polling officers said the MLA had sent his vote by post to the polling officer in Gokak two days ago utilising the special provision made for COVID-19 patients.
Several leaders who campaigned regardless of the pandemic have tested positive, including Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa.
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