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    Charges of Bribery, Usurping Voter IDs Fly as Parties Prepare for Bypolls at RR Nagar & Sira in Karnataka

    Representative Image: PTI)

    Representative Image: PTI)

    The Election Commission has brought in a new rule for voters above the age of 80 years and Covid-19 patients who can cast their votes through postal ballot. Political parties are allegedly trying to benefit from this new rule in trying to lure voters.

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    Sharath Sharma Kalagaru

    For the upcoming bypolls to two assembly seats in Karnataka, 'vote from home' due to Covid-19 has become a boon for political parties to lure voters. The elections for the Sira and Rajarajeshwari Nagar constituencies will be conducted on November 3 and there are allegations that all three parties – BJP, Congress and JDS – are trying to buy votes.

    Disqualified MLA of RR Nagar Munirathnam Naidu, popularly known as Munirathna, has been accused by rivals of collecting voter identity cards of Muslim residents, who normally don’t vote for him. It has been alleged that he is offering Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 per person and collecting their voter cards so that they cannot vote on polling day.

    The state Congress on Monday submitted a petition to the Election Commission against Munirathna for alleged violation of the model code of conduct for broadcasting films projecting himself through the cable network owned by him and distributing set-top boxes.

    In a complaint to the EC, KPCC working president Saleem Ahmed and former MP and legal cell chairman VS Ugrappa said the BJP candidate was an additional director of cable network Rockline Telecommunications Pvt Ltd and the network had been providing feeds to TV channels. It is also alleged that his photograph is printed on the set-top boxes.

    The Congress alleged that Munirathna distributed about 50,000 set-top boxes, worth Rs 1,000 each.

    The RR Nagar election was suspended earlier after a complaint against Munirathna that he indulged in malpractices. The BJP's defeated candidate P Muniraju Gowda has moved court against Munirathna. However, the court asked Muniraju to get proof of the allegation, which he failed to furnish. Then opposition leader and current chief minister BS Yediyurappa in a tweet had accused Munirathna of buying votes.

    However, Yediyurappa’s take on Munirathna changed after he jumped ship from the Congress to the BJP. Munirathna has been given a ticket from the BJP and is likely to be inducted in BSY’s cabinet if he wins.

    On the other hand, the Sira bye-election has also become a prestige battle between the three parties. JDS legislator B Sathyanarayana passed away on August 5 due to multiple-organ failure which led to the bypoll. Both RR Nagar and Sira are strongholds of Vokkaliga voters. In RR Nagar, KPCC president DK Shivakumar has managed to win the support of the Vokkaliga Sangha. The constituency comes under the jurisdiction of Shivakumar’s brother and the lone Congress MP from the state, DK Suresh.

    There are over 5,000 senior citizens aged above 80 in both RR Nagar and Sira assembly seats. The Election Commission has brought in a new rule for voters above the age of 80 years and Covid-19 patients who can cast their votes through postal ballot if they have submitted the form 12D. Political parties are trying to benefit from this new rule in trying to lure voters.

    In Sira, the JDS has given a ticket to Ammajamma, wife of late MLA Sathyanarayana, Congress has fielded former minister and party stalwart TB Jayachandra, while the BJP has given a ticket to a new face, Dr Rajesh Gowda, who recently joined the party.

    In RR Nagar, late IAS officer DK Ravi’s wife Kusuma H is the candidate from Congress. Her father Hanumantharayappa is a loyal Congressman, has good connections in the constituency and is strongly backed by DK Shivakumar. The JDS has fielded V Krishnamurthy. During the campaign, Krishnamurthy said that he will win the polls in the name of former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy. It is indeed the only factor that can bring votes for Krishnamurthy as he is not very popular.

    Voting will be conducted on November 3 and the results will be out on November 10.


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