One killed in Andhra poll violence, 68 percent turnout (Fourth Lead)

April 23rd, 2009 - 9:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Hyderabad, April 23 (IANS) One person was killed and over 30 others were injured in violence as over 68 percent of 26.6 million voters exercised their franchise Thursday in the second phase of polls in 20 Lok Sabha and 150 assembly constituencies of Andhra Pradesh.
An activist of the ruling Congress was killed during a clash with the supporters of the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Prakasam, one of the 10 districts which went to polls.

Nine people were injured in the same incident which took place in Perayapalem in Addanki block of the district in south coastal Andhra. Clashes between the workers of two parties were also reported from two other places.

More than 20 people were injured in clashes between activists of rival political parties while the police opened fire at five places. This was in contrast to the first phase April 16, which was by and large peaceful.

The polling began at 7 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m.

“There are still queues at 400 to 500 polling booths and the booths will remain open till the last voter in the queue casts his vote. This may take another three to four hours,” state Chief Electoral Officer I.V. Subba Rao told reporters Thursday evening.

There were 254 candidates for Lok Sabha polls and 1,822 candidates for assembly elections.

Subba Rao told reporters that re-polling would be held Saturday in 39 polling booths where electronic voting machines (EVMs) were damaged in attacks on the booths.

In Kadapa, the native district of Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, re-polling will be held in 19 booths.

“The polling passed off peacefully. There were stray incidents which did not affect the polling process,” Subba Rao said.

Narsapuram Lok Sabha constituency recorded the highest 76.8 percent polling while the lowest was in Anantapur at 60 percent. However, the final polling figure would be available either Thursday evening or early Friday.

Activists of the ruling Congress, the main opposition 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 witnessed a keen triangular contest among the Congress, the TDP-led four-party grand alliance and the PRP.

Most of the incidents of violence were reported from Kadapa, the home district of the chief minister. The opposition parties alleged that the ruling party indulged in large scale rigging and forced out their polling agents from the booths.

Groups of Congress and TDP workers exchanged home-made bombs in Nagasanipalli in the Mydukur assembly constituency. The police fired 30 rounds to disperse them.

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

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

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

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 communist parties. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Lok Satta of bureaucrat-turned-politician Jaiprakash Narayan are also in the fray.

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

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

They also installed closed circuit television cameras in several sensitive polling booths in Kadapa, Anantapur and Guntur. Security was up in Tirupati after Wednesday’s incident in which police tried to search Chiranjeevi’s hotel room following an allegation by the Congress that he was distributing money among voters.

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

As many as 69.75 percent of 31.2 million voters cast their votes in the first phase.

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