Polling begins in Andhra Pradesh

April 23rd, 2009 - 9:45 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Hyderabad, April 23 (IANS) The second and last phase of polling, covering 20 Lok Sabha and 150 assembly constituencies, began amid tight security in Andhra Pradesh Thursday morning.
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 second phase is witnessing a keen and tough triangular contest among the ruling Congress, the four-party Grand Alliance led by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and superstar Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party (PRP).

The PRP, which is making its electoral debut, appears to be strong in parts of south coastal region, posing a challenge to both the Congress and 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 party, while the TDP is looking to cash in on 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.

All eyes are on Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu and Chiranjeevi, who are contesting for the assembly from Rayalaseema region.

YSR is seeking another term from Pulivenudla in his native Kadapa district, while Naidu is contesting against from Kuppam in his home district Chittoor. Chiranjeevi is making his debut from Tirupati in Chittoor district although he is also contesting from Palakollu in his native West Godavari district.

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 made massive security arrangements. Over 60,000 policemen and paramilitary security personnel have been deployed.

The authorities have also installed closed circuit television cameras in several sensitive polling booth 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, chief electoral officer I.V. 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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