India’s Silicon Valley Heads to Polls Amid Searing Heat and Water Shortages

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Many voters stayed home as polling got underway in India’s tech hub of Bengaluru, as searing heat and a water shortage continued to weigh on the city and the ruling and opposition parties sparred over lack of basic resources.

Turnout in Bengaluru, one of the key cities voting Friday in phase two of India’s general election, was 42.9% at 3 p.m. local time, according to India’s Election Commission. Average turnout across all 88 constituencies voting on Friday was about 50.25%, according to Bloomberg calculations, slightly above the 49.78% turnout by the same time during phase one of voting last week.

The city registered an average turnout of less than 60% at the last polls in 2019, compared with the national record of 67%.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a historic third term in power in India’s elections, which kicked off last week and runs through June 1, with the winner to be announced June 4. In Bengaluru, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party holds three of the city’s four parliamentary seats, but recently lost control of the state government to the opposition Indian National Congress.

Modi has criticized the Congress party’s performance in Bengaluru, alleging that it mismanaged the city’s infrastructure. He also said the city, known as India’s Silicon Valley, has been hostage to “the tanker mafia,” a reference to the water tankers that replenish commercial reservoirs often at high cost.

About 10 million citizens are casting their ballot in Bengaluru, which is home to the country’s $194 billion IT services industry and houses the biggest office of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. outside New York. The city’s population has more than tripled since 1990, to over 13 million, putting enormous pressure on its roads and natural resources like water and green cover.

High temperatures swept many of the regions in India due to vote on Friday. The India Meteorological Department said heat-wave conditions were likely to prevail at many places in the states of West Bengal and Odisha.

The mercury is also likely to be high in parts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka in the coming days, it said in a bulletin. Temperatures were as much as 5C above normal in some places, including West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Sikkim on Thursday.

These are some of the key constituencies of interest in Bengaluru:

  • BJP veteran P.C. Mohan is seeking reelection for a fourth straight time from Bengaluru Central, and is up against political greenhorn Mansoor Ali Khan of the Congress party.

  • In Bengaluru South, another BJP bastion, Tejasvi Surya is being challenged by Congress’s Sowmya Reddy.

  • M.V. Rajeev Gowda, a former management professor, will take on BJP’s Shobha Karandlaje in the northern constituency

  • Incumbent D.K. Suresh of the Congress in Bengaluru Rural will battle C.N. Manjunath of the BJP, the son-in-law of former premier H.D. Deve Gowda.

Voting will also take place across the state of Kerala, where the BJP won zero seats in 2019 and the Congress took 15 of the total 20 seats. The state, known as God’s Own Country because of its rolling mountains and lush forests, also holds the honor of having India’s highest literacy rate of 94%.

These are some of the key constituencies in Kerala and other parts of the country voting in the second phase:

  • Wayanad, Kerala: Rahul Gandhi, a senior leader from the Congress, will contest the election here. He is running for the second time from this constituency after relinquishing a family seat in northern Uttar Pradesh.

  • Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala: Congress’ Shashi Tharoor will be attempting to win the seat for the fourth time against federal minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

  • Karimganj, Assam: Bordering Bangladesh, the constituency has a high Muslim population where the citizen register and the controversy around it will weigh on the vote. Both the Congress and a regional party AIUDF - which has a strong electoral history in the region - have nominated a Muslim candidate.

--With assistance from Swati Gupta and Atul Prakash.

(Updates with details of voter turnout from second paragraph.)

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