First elections in State amidst pandemic

In the midst of recent floods that have brought devastation to several North Karnataka districts, and a high-decibel campaign for byelections to two Assembly seats in South Karnataka, the State is set to witness its first elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, as polls will get underway for the four Legislative Council seats on Wednesday.

The polls have been necessitated owing to the retirement of members representing Karnataka West Graduates’, North East Teachers’, South East Graduates’, and Bangalore Teachers’ constituencies on June 30. The four constituencies are spread across 18 districts in the State. The unprecedented times of COVID-19 had seen postponement of the elections, only to be scheduled for October 28. The counting of votes will be taken up on November 2.

Why it is important

The elections are being seen as important for the BJP, which is trying to increase its presence in the Upper House where it lacks majority. In a setback to the BJP government recently, the Upper House dominated by the Congress and the JD(S) voted against a Bill on labour reforms, stalled the Bill on land reforms, and did not allow placing of the Bill on APMC.

In the House of 75 members, the Congress has 28 members and the BJP 27 members, while the JD(S) has 14 members. There is one Independent, besides chairman K. Prathapchandra Shetty. Of the four vacant seats, two belonged to the JD(S), and one each to the BJP and the Congress.

Members, who retired on June 30, S.V. Sankanur (West Graduates) and Puttanna (Bangalore Teachers) of the BJP, Sharanappa Mattur (North East Teachers) of the Congress, and R. Chowda Reddy (South East Graduates) of the JD(S) are seeking re-election.

Former members Shashil G. Namoshi of the BJP and Ramesh Babu of the Congress are trying to get back to the Council from North East Teachers’ and South East Graduates’ constituencies, respectively. Former legislator and Kannada Vatal Paksha founder Vatal Nagaraj is also in the fray from North East Teachers’ constituency.

Some defectors

Of these, Mr. Puttanna and Mr. Ramesh Babu, who were elected to the Council on JD(S) tickets before, are trying their luck from the BJP and the Congress, respectively. In a sudden turn of events last week, the JD(S), which is defending two seats Bangalore Teachers and South East Graduates, announced its support to Basavaraj Gurikar, the Independent candidate in West Graduates, and accused its candidate Shivashankar Kallur of staying away from campaigning.

“The pandemic has brought untold misery to teachers, which is one of the issues in the teachers’ constituency. In graduates’ constituency, campaign issues are revolving around employment, loan and payment of interest,” Congress spokesperson Muralidhar Halappa said.

Muted participation

According to JD(S) spokesperson T.A. Sharavana, the elections could see muted participation in the constituencies, which already have low voter registration. He added that the government’s policy on appointments will be among issues in the graduates’ constituency.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 5:38:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/first-elections-in-state-amidst-pandemic/article32947660.ece

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