Political Melting Pot

Karnataka records 69.2% voter turnout in the Lok Sabha polls


Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint Team

G Sai Prashanth

The second phase of the election in the state of Karnataka happened on April 26, 2024, with Mandya recording the highest voter turnout (81.67 percent), followed by Tumkur (78.05 percent) and Kolar (78.27 percent), according to a report from the Election Commission. Election dynamics this year seemed very different from those of the 2019 general elections. With temperatures in Bengaluru touching 40 degrees, the 14 constituencies in South Karnataka, including Bengaluru, started voting at 7 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m. Karnataka had a provisional voter turnout of 69.2 percent across 14 constituencies; however, the state average was negatively impacted by low voter turnout in Bengaluru.

"While it seems the saffron party could surpass the previous victory in the general elections with an extra 10 to 15 seats across India, the battle in Karnataka is more challenging due to the state led by Congressman Sidhharamaiah. Modi's popularity in Karnataka is fluid; therefore, the Bharatiya Janata Party might expect to win more than 20 seats in this election," said veteran political analyst and journalist Mr. Ramakrishna Upadhya. The party that wins power this time may ultimately depend on the state's volatile mix of legacy and caste.

With Modi magic working its way through the states in the north, Karnataka seems like a speed breaker in the path of the BJP. The state this year saw a straight electoral contest between the BJP-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition and the ruling Congress party. The saffron party ran for 25 seats in the general elections of 2024, while its state ally, JD (S), ran for the final 3 seats in Hassan, Mandya, and Kolar. In addition to the aforementioned three, the following areas also saw elections on Friday: Bangalore Rural, Bangalore North, Bangalore Central, Bangalore South, Udupi-Chikmagalur, Dakshina Kannada, Chitradurga, Tumkur, Mysore, and Chamarajanagar.

Congress leaders in Karnataka, including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy CM D K Shivakumar, tried to bolster themselves by making strong appeals to their respective caste bases in the state, anticipating the BJP's push on issues like national security, Hindutva, and Modi's popularity during the campaign.

Over 2.88 crore voters were eligible to cast votes in 30,602 polling places during the first phase, which included the majority of the southern and coastal districts, according to the EC report. Bengaluru's low voter turnout had an adverse impact on the state voter turnout average. In this phase, voter turnout was 54.06 percent in Bangalore Central, 53.17 percent in Bangalore South, 54.45 percent in Bangalore North, and 68.30 percent in Bangalore Rural. The same 14 divisions in the first phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections saw 68.80 percent of voters turn out. The second phase of voting for the remaining 14 constituencies in the state's north will take place on May 7.

The road to victory

Party members have been engaged in rigorous campaigning for the past month or so, working day and night to lead the party they support to victory and spending weeks away from home. Amit Shah, the home minister, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led from the front for the BJP during the campaigns, organising roadshows and rallies. B.Y. Vijayendra, the state head of the BJP, and seasoned veteran and former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa also participated in a lengthy campaign. Prominent figures leading the charge for the Congress party included Congress President M. Mallikarjun Kharge, Senior Leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, and Deputy Chief Minister D. K. Shivakumar. As the entry point to south India, all the parties are trying to establish a foothold in Karnataka.

Major battles

With 25 seats and a 51.2% vote share, the BJP had its best-ever performance in Karnataka in terms of both vote share and number of seats in the 2019 elections, with the JD(S), the Independent, and the Congress party each receiving one seat. In the Mandya region, former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy of the JD (S) competed against Congressman Venkataramane Gowda. In the Hassan area, JDS leader Prajwal Revanna faced off against Congressman Shreyas Patel Gowda.

This time, the elections promise an intriguing showdown as BJP's Tejasvi Surya went head-to-head with Congress' Sowmya Reddy. Although Tejasvi Surya currently occupies the MP seat, Sowmya Reddy's close defeat in the assembly elections last year by a mere 16 votes added an extra layer of excitement to this contest. The royal scion of Mysore, Yaduveer Wadiyar, ran on the BJP platform. The saffron party has selected him to succeed Pratap Simha. On a Congress ticket, DK Suresh, the brother of Deputy CM DK Shivakumar, vied for another term from the Bengaluru Rural seat.

The choice of the voters

The state of Karnataka has one of the fastest-growing economies in the nation, thanks to a robust IT sector. This causes problems for political parties like the BJP and INC, which are dealing with anti-incumbency sentiments. Voters still rank issues like unemployment, inflation, and corruption as top priorities. In Bengaluru, people's lives frequently come to an abrupt end because of traffic or water issues. The Karnataka voters this time have decided who they have to vote for by balancing the candidates' platforms with their past performance and negotiating the intricate web of caste and political dynamics.

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