Special Correspondent

1.18 crore voters will decide future of many heavyweights

Kharge, Dharam Singh and H.K. Patil among prominent candidates

Election Commission has opened three helplines

BANGALORE: The Election Commission has made all arrangements for the third and last phase of the Legislative Assembly elections in eight districts of north Karnataka on Thursday.

More than 1.18 crore voters will decide the political future of 415 candidates from 20 parties and 284 independents in 69 constituencies of Dharwad, Gadag, Haveri, Bidar, Gulbaga, Bijapur, Bagalkot and Belgaum districts. Polling will take place in 12,381 booths, according to officials at the Election Commission office here.

Elections on Thursday will bring curtains down on voting in all 224 Assembly segments across the State. The first phase of polling was held in 89 constituencies on May 10 and in 66 segments in the second phase on May 16.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) have fielded candidates in all 69 constituencies, the Janata Dal (United) in 26, Samajwadi Party in 43, Rashtriya Hindustan Sena in 16 and Loka Janashankti in 15 constituencies.

Victory in the third phase of the Assembly polls is crucial for the BJP and the Congress in their quest for power as the BJP had done extremely well in the predominantly Lingayat belt in 2004 at the cost of the Congress. The polling will decide the fate of Congress’s chief ministerial aspirants M. Mallikarjun Kharge, N. Dharam Singh and H.K. Patil.

The former Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president M. Mallikarjun Kharge are seeking their ninth successive victories. Mr. Singh, who headed the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government in 2004 for 20 months, is facing tough challenge from the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular) nominees in his home turf Jewargi, which elected him for eight consecutive terms. Thirteen candidates are in the fray in the Jewargi constituency.

Mr. Kharge, another Congress leader, is fighting a fierce battle against the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular) in Chittapur (reserved). The prominent Dalit leader shifted from his Gurumitkal constituency after it became a general constituency in the delimitation process, to neighbouring Chitapur, which had been declared as a reserved seat. Seven candidates are in the fray in Chittapur constituency.

MLC H.K. Patil is contesting from Gadag constituency and five candidates are the in the fray.

Helplines

Three helplines have been set up by the Election Commission for the third phase of elections. Each of the following lines will be having four or five telephone lines – 080-22219999. All poll related complaints or grievances can be registered through these numbers.

Counting of votes for all the 224 constituencies will be held on Sunday and the results are expected in the afternoon.

More In: KARNATAKA | NATIONAL