Holidays worry parties in Karnataka's tech hub (Election Special)
Posted on Apr 13 2014 | IANS
By Fakir Balaji, Bangalore, April 13 : A string of public holidays beginning Monday and extending till the ensuing weekend barring two days in mid-week are worrying Lok Sabha candidates in Bangalore, India's tech hub.
With holiday declared for polling day (Thursday), followed by Good Friday April 18 and a weekend (Saturday and Sunday) holidays, the Congress and BJP fear voting would be severely affected if government employees and techies in IT firms go on leave en masse Tuesday and Wednesday and travel out of the city. Monday, April 14, is a holiday for Ambedkar Jayanthi.
"When the Election Commission announced that polling will be held in Karnataka April 17, we petitioned it to defer the date by a week in view of the nine days of holidays from April 12-20 except Tuesday and Wednesday in between," BJP's state unit president Prahlad Joshi told IANS.
Though the state electoral officer (Anil Kumar Jha) forwarded Joshi's letter to New Delhi, the poll panel did not oblige for logistic and security reasons.
"The Election Commission could not agree to postpone the polling date once the elaborate schedule was drawn up, keeping in view the security concerns, availability of security forces and staff, weather and local factors such as board exams and festivals," Jha pointed out.
According to official estimates, about 50 percent of the six-lakh state government employees and over 100,000 techies from outside the city and state work in Bangalore.
"About 40 percent of government employees working in Bangalore are from other parts of the state on transfer or deputation. If many of them apply for two days casual leave for Tuesday and Wednesday, they get holidays for nine days beginning second Saturday (April 12)," a senior official told IANS here.
Incidentally, Mahavir Jayanti has coincided with a Sunday (April 13).
Of the 28 parliamentary constituencies in the state, three are in the city - Bangalore South, Bangalore Central and Bangalore North, with an average two million (20 lakh) electorate in each.
Polling in other constituencies across the state is also likely to be affected if voters working in government or in private sector go on leave and stay away the whole week from where they are registered as voters.
"As voting percentage in Bangalore in previous assembly and parliamentary elections has been lowest in the state, averaging 50-55 percent despite steady increase in the number of electorate, including new voters in every election, a lower turnout can make or mar the prospects of contestants," a polling official said.
The overall voting percentage in 28 assembly segments across the city was 52.8 percent in the 2013 assembly and 54.6 percent in the 2009 general elections.
Admitting that a stretch of holidays may affect voting if techies and government employees go out of city, Infosys co-founder and Congress candidate in Bangalore South Nandan Nilekani said the parties had no choice but to face the situation.
"We hope the turnout would not be affected as more voters, including first-time voters, have enrolled for this election," Nilekani told IANS.
BJP's candidate and five-time winner N.H. Ananth Kumar, contesting from Bangalore South, is not unduly concerned as he thinks that yjr absence of techies in the city on polling day would not make much difference. Most of them are outsiders with voting rights in their respective states.
"Our party workers and election agents have been trying to find out how many of the techies working in the city are registered voters in my constituency and how many of them would be present on the polling date. Response has not been encouraging as many voters among them were yet to decide whether to skip voting and make best use of the holidays by travelling out of city," Kumar said.
The state Election Commission has unleashed a campaign to woo the electorate to exercise their democratic franchise and not go on a vacation till polling is over at 6 p.m. Thursday.