Bengaluru, October 30: The Election Commission allowed COVID- affected voters to exercise their franchise in Karnataka's twin assembly by-elections on November 3 in Bengaluru and Tumakuru district, an official said on Friday. "Ambulance will be arranged to ferry voters who are COVID-19 positive from hospitals or their home to the nearest polling station in the RR Nagar (Rajarajeshwarinagar) assembly segment in Bengaluru and Sira assembly seat in Tumakuru district on November 3," a poll official told IANS here. RR Nagar Bye-Election 2020: Dry Days Declared in Several Areas by Bengaluru Police, Check Dates When Liquor Sale Will Be Banned.
Vote count is on November 10. Though polling will be from 7 am to 6 pm, COVID-hit voters and their contacts will be allowed to cast their ballot in the last hour from 5-6 pm. They will be dressed in PPE (personal protective equipment) to ensure safety of all, including other voters and the staff at the polling stations. "As per the Bengaluru civic body data, 1,177 patients have been identified as voters in the RR Nagar assembly segment till date, with 317 in hospitals, 842 in home quarantine and 18 at COVID care centres in its area," said the official. Karnataka Bypolls: Fight Between Congress and BJP in RR Nagar, Triangular Contest in Sira, Says Siddaramaiah.
COVID-positive voters in Sira are being identified to arrange ambulance for taking them to the nearest polling booth in the constituency though their number is projected to be less than in RR Nagar segment. "As senior citizens above 65 years are advised to stay home for health safety, they have been given postal ballots to cast their vote and avoid the risk of going to the polling station," said the official.
There are about 5,560 voters above 80 years of age and 695 differently abled voters in the RR Nagar segment. Non-COVID voters will also be allowed to cast their ballot till 6 pm after the polling booth is santised. "Wearing face mask, sanitising hands and maintaining physical distance are mandatory for all voters and the polling staff. They will be thermally screened before entering the polling station to ensure they are free from COVID symptoms," added the official.
In all, 31 candidates, including 4 women are in the fray in the twin by-polls, with 16 in RR Nagar and 15 in Sira. RR Nagar has 4,62,201 voters and Sira 2,15,725. RR Nagar has 678 polling stations and Sira 330. With the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress and regional outfit Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) fielding their candidates, the by-elections are set to witness a triangular contest in both the seats. RR Nagar is in Bengaluru southwest suburb and Sira is about 120km northwest of Bengaluru in the southern state.
Munirathna and Rajesh Gowda are the BJP candidates in RR Nagar and Sira, while Kusuma H and T.B. Jayachandra from the Congress. V. Krishna Murthy and Ammajamma are the contestants from the JD-S in the respective constituencies. All the candidates of the mainstream parties are Vokkaligas, a politically dominant community in the state, especially in the old Mysuru region.
The by-elections have been necessitated by the resignation of Munirathna, a Congress defector to the BJP in 2019 from RR Nagar and the death of JD-S legislator B. Satyanarayana from Sira on August 5 after prolonged illness at a private hospital in Bengaluru. Kusuma, 31, widow of former IAS officer D.K. Ravi, joined the Congress on October 4, with a view to contesting in the byelections, as her father Hanumantharayappa is a former Congress council member from RR Nagar zone.
Ravi, 35, a 2009 batch Karnataka cadre IAS officer, committed suicide in the city on March 16, 2015, for "personal reasons". As per the guidelines issued by the poll panel, political parties and Independents should ensure COVID-19 measures at their rallies and meetings for electioneering.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Oct 30, 2020 10:39 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).