Clashes mar second phase of polling in Andhra Pradesh (Lead)

April 23rd, 2009 - 4:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Hyderabad, April 23 (IANS) Clashes between activists of rival political parties Thursday marred the second and last phase of polling in Andhra Pradesh, covering 20 Lok Sabha and 150 assembly constituencies. Police had to open fire in two places.
An estimated 25-30 percent votes were polled in the first four hours while long queues of voters, especially women, formed in many areas.

Activists of ruling Congress party, main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and superstar Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) clashed at several places in Kadapa, Anantapur, Chittoor, Kurnool, Prakasam and Nellore districts, police said.

The second phase is witnessing a keen triangular contest among the Congress, the four-party grand alliance led by the TDP and the PRP.

In Kadapa, the home district of Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, Congress and TDP groups attacked each other with locally-made bombs. Police fired 30 rounds to disperse the clashing groups. The incident took place in Nagasanipalli in Mydukur assembly constituency.

Clashes were also reported from Pulivendula constituency, from where the chief minister is seeking re-election.

The police also opened fire in Chinnaganjam in Prakasam district when Congress and TDP activists clashed.

Tension prevailed near a polling station in the temple town of Tirupati in Chittoor district when the Congress and TDP workers tried to prevent PRP chief Chiranjeevi from visiting the booth.

There was a near-stampede when the film star turned politician, who is contesting from Tirupati assembly constituency, visited a few other polling centres.

Chiranjeevi is also contesting from Palakollu in his home district West Godavari. TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu is contesting again from Kuppam in his home district Chittoor.

In Anantapur district, people in a village attacked Congress candidate Prakash Reddy in Rapthadu constituency. Villagers of Gadekunta did not allow him to enter the village. Prakash Reddy was last week arrested by the Bangalore police in an attempt to murder case and was released on bail Monday.

Unlike the first phase, which was by and large peaceful, the second phase has been marred by violence and allegations of electoral malpractices. State’s Chief Electoral Officer I.V. Subba Rao, however, said the polling was not affected by some incidents.

Polling began at 7 a.m. in 30,446 polling stations in 10 districts in south coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. There were complaints from some polling booths about the electronic voting machines not functioning.

Over 26.6 million voters, half of them women, will decide the electoral fortunes of 254 candidates for the Lok Sabha and 1,822 candidates for the state assembly.

The PRP, which is making its electoral debut, appears to be strong in parts of the south coastal region, posing a challenge to both the Congress and the TDP. The caste factor is likely to play a dominant role with the Kapus, who constitute a sizeable chunk in East, West Godavari and Krishna districts, rallying behind Chiranjeevi.

Though there is no anti-incumbency, the PRP factor may cut into traditional votes of the Congress, while the TDP is looking to cash in on the division of votes.

The Congress and PRP are contesting all seats on their own while the TDP has left eight assembly seats for the two Left parties. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Lok Satta of bureaucrat-turned-politician Jaiprakash Narayan are also in the fray.

Union ministers Pallam Raju and Pannabaka Lakshmi, YSR’s son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy (all Congress), actor and former union minister U.V. Krishnam Raju (PRP) and actor Murali Mohan (TDP) are among the key contestants for the Lok Sabha elections.

With Rayalaseema and parts of south coastal Andhra notorious for poll violence and electoral malpractices, the election authorities have deployed over 60,000 policemen and paramilitary security personnel.

The authorities have also installed closed circuit television cameras in several sensitive polling booths in Kadapa, Anantapur and Guntur. Security has been further tightened in Tirupati after Wednesday’s incident in which police tried to search Chiranjeevi’s hotel room following allegation by Congress activists that the actor is distributing money among voters.

Police made a retreat after Chiranjeevi insisted that they conduct the search in the presence of media.

Following protest from the PRP, Subba Rao sent a top police official to Tirupati to monitor the polling and also removed a police officer from poll duty.

The first phase of polling was held in 22 Lok Sabha and 154 assembly constituencies in Telangana and north coastal Andhra regions April 16.

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