Campaigning for second phase of 14 LS seats ends in Karnataka as sexual abuse row takes centre stage

Karnataka has a total of 28 Lok Sabha constituencies. The first phase of elections for 14 segments was held on 26 April.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 05, 2024 | 10:16 PMUpdatedMay 05, 2024 | 10:16 PM

File photo of BJP supporters

The campaigning for the second phase of polling in 14 Lok Sabha segments in Congress-ruled Karnataka ended on Sunday, 5 May, with the Hassan sexual abuse controversy wading into the narrative in no small measure.

Tuesday’s elections (7 May) matter the most for the BJP as it had bagged all those 14 seats in the 2019 polls.

Karnataka has a total of 28 Lok Sabha constituencies. The first phase of elections for 14 segments was held on 26 April.

Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have targeted the BJP over the alleged sexual assault involving Hassan JD(S) MP, Prajwal Revanna, in campaign rallies.

Prajwal is the grandson of former prime minister and JD(S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda and the son of former minister and current MLA HD Revanna.

Also Read: HD Revanna arrested for kidnapping; K’taka govt to provide financial aid to victims

Prajwal Revanna sexual assault case

Prajwal is facing allegations of sexually abusing women. He was the JD(S)-BJP alliance candidate from Hassan seat which went to polls on 26 April.

Nearly 3,000 explicit video clips allegedly involving Prajwal sexually abusing several women, including government officials and party workers, had started doing the rounds in Hassan in recent days.

Prajwal is believed to have escaped to Germany shortly after polling in the first phase of elections in the state got over.

The JD(S) on Tuesday, 30 April, suspended him from the party over his alleged involvement in the case. Prajwal on Wednesday sought seven days’ time to appear before the SIT.

The SIT on Tuesday issued notice to Prajwal and his father Revanna, who have been booked for alleged sexual harassment at the Holenarasipura police station in Hassan district on 28 April, based on a complaint by a woman who worked in their house, directing them to appear for investigation.

In her complaint, the 47-year-old survivor named both father and son, alleging sexual harassment and abuse by them.

Police have registered a case under Sections 354A, 354D, 506, and 509 of the IPC based on the complaint.

Also Read: SIT probing sexual assault charges against Prajwal takes HD Revanna into custody

Rahul seeks ‘strictest punishment’

Rahul Gandhi alleged that Prajwal Revanna had raped 400 women, and lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for seeking votes for a “mass rapist” and sought his apology.

Gandhi in a letter to Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on 3 May said that Prajwal brutally assaulted and robbed the dignity of “many who looked up to him as a brother and son”.

Gandhi also highlighted the need for “strictest possible punishment” against the perpetrator to ensure justice for the victims.

The senior Congress leader also expressed his dismay over revelations that G Devaraje Gowda made Home Minister Amit Shah aware of Prajwal’s history of sexual violence and the existence of videos filmed by him as early as December 2023.

He asserted that the “deeply perverse nature of these crimes” and Prajwal’s “absolute impunity”, with the blessings of the prime minister and home minister, deserves the strongest condemnation.

“In my two decades in public life, I have never come across a senior public representative who has constantly chosen silence in the face of untold violence against women,” Gandhi said in the letter.

He also accused the union government of allowing Prajwal to flee the country, obstructing any meaningful investigation into the matter.

Also Read: CBI’s ‘Blue Corner Notice’ likely against Prajwal Revanna, SIT tells Siddaramaiah

BJP targets govt over failure to curb ‘anti-national activities,’ ‘Love Jihad’

The JD(S) joined the BJP-led NDA in September last year.

Meanwhile, the BJP has attacked the government for alleged failure to “contain anti-national activities”, and incidents of ‘Love Jihad’ and ‘appeasement politics’.

The party leaders repeatedly referred to the bomb blast at a cafe in Bengaluru on 1 March, the murder of 23-year-old Neha Hiremath on a college campus in Hubballi by Fayaz Khondunaik on 18 April and the raising of pro-Pakistan slogans in the corridors of Vidhana Soudha on 27 February.

Speaking to reporters in the district headquarters town of Belagavi, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Sunday said, “In the first phase, we will win about eight to nine seats. In the second phase, we will win in 10 constituencies.”

The Congress is also banking heavily on the state government’s guarantee schemes and remains optimistic that they will pay the party electoral dividends.

Also Read: Children of ex-CMs and firebrand expelled BJP leader spice up LS poll scene in Shimoga

Election highlights

Among the candidates in the fray for the 7 May polls is Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, who is seeking a fifth straight term from Dharwad.

There will be a by-poll to the Shorapur assembly constituency in Yadgir district on 7 May following the death of Congress MLA Raja Venkatappa Naik in February this year.

The 14 segments going to polls on Tuesday are: Belgaum (Belagavi), Uttara Kannada, Chikkodi, Bagalkot (Bagalkote), Bidar, Haveri, Dharwad, Koppal, Bellari (Ballari), Raichur, Bijapur (Vijayapura), Davangere and Shimoga (Shivamogga) and Gulbarga (Kalaburagi).

According to the Election Commission, 227 candidates are in the fray. The BJP and the Congress have fielded 14 candidates each while the Bahujan Samaj Party is trying its luck in nine seats.

There are 117 independents. Also, 73 people are fighting the election from registered unrecognised parties.

The 14 constituencies have 2.59 crore voters, the EC said, adding, there are a total of 28,257 main polling stations.

Also Read: Prabha Mallikarjun makes electoral debut in Davangere

BJP, Congress candidates in the fray

Among the BJP contestants are former Chief Ministers Basavaraj Bommai (Haveri) and Jagadish Shettar (Belgaum), former Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri (Uttara Kannada) and former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa’s son BY Raghavendra (Shimoga).

Congress President M Mallikarjun Kharge’s son-in-law Radhakrishna Doddamani is contesting from Gulbarga.

The Congress has fielded Minister Eshwar Khandre’s son Sagar Khandre (Bidar), Minister Laxmi Hebbalkar’s son Mrinal Hebbalkar (Belgaum) and Minister Satish Jarkiholi’s daughter Priyanka Jarkiholi (Chikkodi).

Other Congress candidates are Minister Shivanand Patil’s daughter Samyukta Patil (Bagalkot) and Geetha Shivarajkumar, who is wife of Kannada film actor Shivarajkumar and daughter of former Chief Minister late S Bangarappa (Shimoga).

As Congress has fielded Karnataka Minister for Mines and Geology SS Mallikarjun’s wife Prabha Mallikarjun from Davangere, the BJP gave ticket to Gayathri Siddeshwara, who is wife of MP GM Siddeshwara.

Also Read: Make polling hours 6 am-7 pm for 7 May LS polls, K’taka BJP to EC citing heatwave

EC’s arrangements at polling centres 

The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements to increase voter turnout amid the soaring temperatures in the 14 constituencies.

From arranging shamianas and tents, additional fans and drinking water facilities, to keeping ambulances on standby and using adjacent rooms of the polling booth as waiting areas, the Election Commission is making efforts to ensure that the polling percentage is not affected due to the “harsh summer”.

In this first phase, Karnataka recorded 69.56 per cent voter turnout.

Speaking to PTI, Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer Manoj Kumar Meena said, “the constituencies where polling will take place on 7 May are in North Karnataka region and the temperature is slightly high there.”

“So, we have made all necessary arrangements to ensure that people aren’t deterred from coming out of their homes to vote,” the CEO said.

The poll body has also roped in ASHA workers and Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) workers to handle any medical emergency that may arise at the polling stations.

He added that a cluster of polling stations has also prepared ambulances to quickly transport patients requiring more than first aid to the hospital.

The priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of poll officials and voters, especially senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

Adequate number of tents and umbrellas for shade, and chairs to seat the officials and voters have been provided at the polling stations to beat the heat.

“All arrangements are being done to ensure that people have a pleasant experience and that the harsh summer will not deter them from coming to vote,” the CEO said.

“We will do our best to see that people will not face any problem,” he added.

There are a total of 2,59,52,958 electors in these 14 constituencies, out of which 1,29,83,406 are male, 1,29,67,607 are female and 1,945 are others.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj, with PTI inputs)