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By-polls to three seats in Karnataka begin amid Covid scare

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Bengaluru, Apr 17 (IANS): Amid exponential spurt in Covid cases, by-polls for a Lok Sabha seat in Belgaum and two assembly constituencies of Basavakalyan and Maski, are underway in Karnataka on Saturday.

The ruling BJP and the opposition Congress party, are looking to win in all three constituencies.

In all, 30 candidates, including 10 in Belgaum, 12 in Basavakalyan, and Eight in Maski (Reserved) are in the fray. Of them, 26 are men and four are women.

There are five Independents each in Belgaum and Maski and four in Basavakalyan.

Of the 22,59,778 voters in the three seats, 18,13,567 are in Belgaum, 2,39,782 in Basavakalyan and 2,06,429 in Maski. Voters will be casting their franchise across 3,197 polling stations in the three constituencies. The votes will be counted on May 2.

The Election Commission (EC) has decided to keep polling open for more hours, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., to facilitate the compliance of Covid safety rules. The last hour is reserved for Covid positive patients.

Ahead of the polling began, both BJP and Congress appealed to voters to vote in their respective candidates’ favor on their Twitter and other social media channels. They also appealed to voters to follow Covid safety protocols.

By-polls in Belagavi Lok Sabha seat and Basavakalyan assembly seat was necessitated due to Suresh Angadi, a four-time Lok Sabha member from the state’s northwest region, who died of Covid on September 23, 2020, in New Delhi, while B. Narayan Rao also died of Covid on September 24, 2020, in Bengaluru.

But by-polls to the Maski assembly constituency are being held due to the disqualification of MLA Prathapagouda Patil, who shifted to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after winning on a Congress ticket in 2018.

The Opposition Congress has tried to corner the ruling BJP over lack of good administration, Karnataka’s Covid-19 situation, and issues related to reservation of different communities.

Even though Sleaze CD case involving former Karnataka minister, Ramesh Jarakiholi did make big news across the state ahead of by-polls in Karnataka, but Congress could not make this as a major a poll plank because it has fielded his younger brother and party’s working president Satish Jarakiholi in Belgaum Lok Sabha seat.

Congress had won the Basavakalyan and Maski assembly constituencies in 2018 and hopes to retain it in these by-polls.

The ruling BJP has fielded Mangala Suresh Angadi, widow of Suresh Angadi for the Belgaum Lok Sabha seat.

In Basavakalyan, Congress has fielded Mallamma, the widow of legislator B. Narayan Rao, against the BJP’s leader Sharanu Salagar. Mallikarjun Khuba, a rebel leader formerly of the BJP, who is contesting as an Independent candidate is also in the fray. Janata Dal (Secular) which has limited itself to the Basavakalyan assembly constituency in this by-polls has fielded Syed Yasrab Ali Quadri.

The BJP has nominated Prathapagouda Patil in Maski, who emerged winner in 2018 against Congress’ Basanagouda Turvihal. Turvihal fought on a BJP ticket in 2018 and lost by a thin margin of 213 against Patil who was with the Congress at that time

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