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Brisk polling in Karnataka, 60 percent turnout till 5 p.m.

Bangalore, May 5, 2013 (IANS): 17:51 IST
 Voters check their names on a voters list near a polling booth during state Assembly elections in Bangalore on May 5, 2013. AFP photo
Over 60 percent of the 43.6 million voters cast their ballots till 5 p.m. in the 14th Karnataka assembly polls Sunday to decide the fate of the first BJP government in south India, an official said here.

In Bangalore, which has earned notoriety for low polling, the balloting pace remained slow with only around 45 percent of the city's seven million voters exercising their franchise, an election official told reporters.

Balloting, which began across the state at 7 a.m., ends at 6 p.m. "Voting has been peaceful though there were protests in some places over missing names or malfunctioning electronic voting machines or heated exchange of words among supporters of various contestants," a Karnataka police spokesperson told reporters in Bangalore.

Election officials said that in a few villages in north Karnataka, people had stayed away from voting protesting against lack of basic facilities like drinking water. The polling began on a brisk note, despite hot weather conditions across the state. The votes will be counted May 8.

With the Election Commission (EC) advancing commencement of polling by an hour to 7 a.m., hundreds of voters made a beeline to booths in many of the 223 assembly constituencies to cast their vote through electronic voting machines (EVMs).

But in the first four hours of voting, polling was just about 15 percent. The EC had also extended the duration of polling by an hour to 6 p.m., in view of the scorching summer heat across the state, including Bangalore.

Polling is being held for 223 of the state assembly's 224 elected seats. Election from the Periyapatna constituency of Mysore district has been countermanded, following the death of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Sannamoge Gowda April 29. Polling there has now been rescheduled for May 28. One seat in the state assembly is reserved for a nominated member from the Ango-Indian community.

In all, 52,034 polling booths have been set up across the 223 assembly segments, with 10,103 of them declared hyper-sensitive and 14,209 as sensitive. Of the state's 61.13 million population, 43.6 million are registered voters, comprising 22.22 million men and 21.35 million women. First-time voters in the age group of 18-22 years are 3.55 million.

As the state capital, Bangalore has the largest number of voters -- 7.03 million of a total population of 10 million -- and the highest number of assembly segments at 28. Among the eligible voters, 534,548 are first-timers, as they enrolled for this election in January.

About 253,000 officials from state and central governments and state-run organisations are on poll duty, with 48,182 police personnel outside booths and about 100,000 additional forces deployed around booths to maintain law and order. bout 2,000 flying squads comprising five members each, including a photographer and a video-grapher to record the proceedings and ensure free and fair voting, a poll official said.

The total number of candidates in the fray are 2,948, including 170 women candidates.

Major political parties such as the ruling BJP, the Congress, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and the newly-formed Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), a party of the BJP rebels led by its first chief minister in the southern state B.S. Yeddyurappa are contesting in all the 223 constituencies across the state.

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