Despite pandemic, Sira sees big turnout; voter response lukewarm in R.R. Nagar
The bitterly fought byelections in Sira and Rajarajeshwarinagar Assembly constituencies — in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic — saw an impressive turnout in the former and a lukewarm response in the latter.
While Sira segment recorded 84.54% polling, higher than the previous elections, R.R. Nagarin contrast saw 45.24%, the lowest in the five elections held since 2013. The turnout in the two constituencies, despite R.R. Nagar recording lower polling percentage, has belied expectations that the pandemic could force a large number of voters to stay home. The polling went off peacefully, barring a few petty incidents. In a first for any election, COVID-19 patients came to vote in ambulance while the polling staff donned personal protection equipment. Booths were sanitised.
Sira had recorded a turnout of 84.31% in the 2018 Assembly elections and 73.89% in the 2019 parliamentary polls while R.R. Nagar had registered 54.38% and 53.12% polling in the 2018 and 2019 elections, respectively.
Polling in Sira, which saw just about 8.25% turnout in the first two hours, gained momentum after 9 a.m. As the day progressed, the turnout increased by an average of 15 percentage points every two hours. In R.R. Nagar, however, the urban voter indifference continued, more so with the fear of the pandemic, as it reported an average 8 percentage points increase in voting every two hours.
A total of 5,019 postal ballots were issued in Sira for those with COVID-19, persons with disabilities, and those aged above 80, of which 4,821 were used. In R.R. Nagar, a total of 512 postal ballots were issued, of which 412 were used.
Heat and dust
The byelections were necessitated owing to death of Janata Dal (Secular) legislator B. Sathyanarayana in Sira and resignation of Munirathna in R.R. Nagar. An inconsequential polls in terms of government stability, the run-up to the byelections saw a bitter war of words between leaders of the Congress, the BJP, and the JD(S) over caste, distribution of money, and misuse of government machinery.
In R.R. Nagar, BJP candidate Mr. Munirathna is locked in a tight battle with Kusuma H. of the Congress and V. Krishnamurthy of the JD(S) while in Sira six-time legislator T.B. Jayachandra is facing the wife of late Sathyanarayana and JD(S) candidate Ammajamma, and BJP candidate C.M. Rajesh Gowda, son of three-time Chitraduraga MP C.P. Moodalgiriyappa.
The Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar, in a press release, complimented the voters, especially those suffering from COVID-19, persons with disabilities, and senior citizens, who participated in the elections in such high number despite the pandemic.