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Congress, JD(S) supporters clash in Kanakapura

By Govind D. Belgaumkar

KANAKAPURA, APRIL 20. Congress and Janata Dal (S) supporters clashed, police had to resort to lathi-charge, and about a dozen vehicles were damaged in stone throwing in Kanakapura town on Tuesday.

Most of the shops and business establishments downed shutters and there was tension in the area.

Eyewitnesses said the trouble started in the morning when the Janata Dal (S) workers found that vehicles carrying voters, allegedly belonging to the Congress, were passing through the town towards Sathanur and surrounding areas.

They were coming from Bangalore.

Alleging that people were being taken to cast proxy votes, a group of people, allegedly belonging to the JD(S), threw stones on at least nine buses at K.N.S. Circle. The passengers of the buses disembarked and ran to safety.

Protesting the stone throwing, Congress supporters led by S. Ravi, MLC, staged a dharna at the circle. As tempers ran high, the police chased the people away.

Though the police brought in reinforcements, tension again starting building around 3 p.m. when five more buses, allegedly carrying Congress voters, was passing through the town. The Janata Dal (S) supporters blocked them at Channabasappa Circle. Eyewitnesses said a couple of buses were stoned and there was a clash between supporters of the two parties forcing the police to resort to lathi-charge. Later, the buses were allowed towards Sathanur.

A minor clash occurred at Kurupet, a little away from the Channabasappa Circle, where two vehicles and Congress supporters were reportedly targeted by the people said to be Janata Dal (S) workers. A policeman had to point a gun towards the people to scare them away.

The Kanakapura police said only half-a-dozen vehicles were damaged.

H.D. Kumaraswamy, Janata Dal (S) leader and candidate for the Ramanagaram Assembly seat, alleged that people had been brought from Bangalore in over 60 buses for casting votes in different booths of Sathanur constituency.

When pointed out that many of the people in the buses possessed voter identity cards, Mr. Kumaraswamy alleged that they were fake.

The driver of one of the damaged buses said he was taking about 35 voters to Sathanur in his vehicle from Bangalore. Marasappa, General Secretary, Bangalore Rural District Youth Congress, said the commuters possessed genuine voter identity cards. They had pooled in money and had hired the vehicles.

The polling in the town's booths was picking up when trouble started around 3 p.m. Nearly 600 votes had been cast by that time in two booths.

After that only about 100 people turned up. The polling officers said about 150 to 200 people, women in particular, could have stayed away from each booth.

At Talaghattapura, forming part of the Uttarahalli Assembly Constituency, a vehicle was found carrying food packets. It was claimed that the food packets were being given to Congress workers.

But a couple of men, who received the packets, admitted that they were only voters and not party workers. A woman was seen accepting a food packet inside the compound of a school where polling was going on.

An electronic voting machine, which was not functioning properly at Kanakapura, was replaced.

Political parties arranging tractors and other vehicles to pick up people from far-flung areas was a common sight in the Kanakapura Lok Sabha Constituency, where the former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (S) leader, H.D. Deve Gowda, is seeking re-election.

At a booth in Channapatna, voting started late as the officers had difficulties in switching on the EVMs.

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