Polling for the Rajarajeshwari Nagar and Sira assembly bye-elections in Karnataka held under the shadow of coronavirus concluded peacefully without any major glitches on Tuesday. Poor voter turnout marked the Rajarajeshwari Nagar bye-poll with a polling percentage of only 45.24, whereas it was 82.31% in Sira, according to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar.
The death of Sira JD(S) MLA B Satyanarayana in August and resignation of RR Nagar Congress MLA Munirathna from the assembly last year led to the bye-polls.
The highest percentage of 94.3% was recorded in a polling booth at Saluparahalli, followed by Seebi 93.15% and Byadarahalli 91.17%, all at Sira. The office of the Chief Electoral Officer said that the two constituencies have a total electorate of 6,78,012, including 3,26,114 women. They exercised their franchise in 1,008 polling stations, comprising 678 in RR Nagar and 330 in Sira, Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar said in a statement.
In view of the pandemic, standard protocol of face masks was made mandatory for voters as well as the polling staff. Arrangements were made for thermal screening and hand sanitisers made available at the polling stations.
Among the voters, 42 were coronavirus infected people, including 38 in Sira. The sources said 17 of the 38 COVID-19 patients who voted had fever. Besides them, there were five primary contacts of COVID- 19 infected persons.
Tension prevailed for a while in RR Nagar when a few para-military personnel reportedly wore saffron masks. Soon after the Congress objected, senior officials got them removed and gave them other masks, said Congress sources.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (city corporation) had made separate arrangements for coronavirus-infected people to cast their votes in RR Nagar.
There are 31 candidates in the fray in the bye-polls— 15 in Sira and 16 in RR Nagar, including those from the Congress, BJP and the JD(S). In RR Nagar, BJP has fielded former Congress MLA Munirathna, whereas the Congress has given the ticket to H Kusuma, wife of former IAS officer late D K Ravi in the seat traditionally held by the party. The JD(S) has fielded V Krishnamurthy.
In Sira, the BJP, Congress and JD(S) have fielded radiologist Dr Rakesh Gowda, former minister T B Jayachandra and former (JD-S) MLA B Satyanarayana's wife Ammajamma respectively.
In the 224-seat assembly, BJP has 116 MLAs minus the speaker, Congress 67 and JD(S) 33, BSP one and there are two independents. There is also a nominated member.