A fortnight-long hectic campaign for the May 5 Karnataka legislative assembly elections ended Friday, with mainstream and regional political parties switching over to door-to-door canvassing to woo the voters over the next 24 hours.
"Elaborate arrangements have been made to conduct free and fair elections Sunday in 223 assembly constituencies across the state through 6,200 polling booths, involving about 100,000 officials and over 135,000 security personnel drawn from central and state police forces," state Chief Electoral Officer A.K. Jha told reporters here Friday.
Though the assembly has 225 seats, including one nominated member from the Ango-Indian community, polling is being held only in 223 constituencies. The poll in the Periyapatna assembly segment in Mysore district has been countermanded following the death of Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Sannamoge Gowda April 29. It has been rescheduled to May 28.
"We have warned all the political parties, including their candidates and cadres, of stringent action if they are found influencing the electorate through inducements, money, liquor and gifts to vote in a particular way. Even voters will be punished with one-year jail sentence if caught receiving bribe to vote in favour of a specific candidate or indulging in proxy vote," Jha said.
As a precautionary measure, the Election Commission has banned sale of liquor for 48 hours from Friday 5 p.m. to Sunday 5 p.m. across the state, when polling is slated to end.
"We have also seized about Rs.15 crore of unaccounted cash (cumulative) and 67,000 litres of illegal liquor valued at Rs.4.97 crore at various checkpoints across the state during the last fortnight. In all, 2,203 cases have booked and 633 first information reports (FIRs) filed against offenders violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) during electioneering," Jha said.
The state police and excise departments have set up 170 inter-state border check-posts, 130 liquor surveillance squads and 170 intra-state check-points to prevent illegal transport of liquor, cash or other materials and their distribution to induce voters.
Central police forces are being deployed in the Maoist-affected areas in central and coastal districts of the state to ensure the electorate will be able come out and vote without fear.
"We have identified 9,954 hyper sensitive, 14,209 sensitive and 149 Maoist-prone polling booths across the state for extra protection. As a precautionary measure, 85,338 licensed guns have been deposited with police stations. All check-posts and flying squads have been put on alert to prevent appeasement of voters," state's Additional Director General of Police Bipin Gopalakrishna Hosur said.
Physically challenged and visually impaired voters will be given preference to cast their ballot first, as the voting process will begin at 7 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m.
"We have made arrangements to distribute voters slips with photograph to the electorate in all the constituencies to ensure maximum participation this time so as to improve the polling percentage," Jha added.