n estimated 80 per cent voter turnout was recorded today in crucial by-elections to 18 Assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh, which are expected have a bearing on the political future of arrested YSR Congress President Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Voters turned out in large numbers since 8 am when the polling began in over 5,000 polling stations set up in the 18 Assembly constituencies and Nellore Lok Sabha seat spread over 12 districts in Andhra Pradesh.
State Chief Electoral Officer Bhanwar Lal told reporters after the conclusion of polling hours that overall polling percentage might go up to 80 as all those voters in queue till 5 pm are allowed to exercise their franchise.
Barring minor skirmishes, the polling passed off peacefully and no complaint has been received from the political parties, he said.
In Nellore Lok Sabha constituency, the polling percentage was 68 and it is likely to go up to 70 per cent.
There is no case for re-polling in any polling stations for now, the CEO said and attributed the high percentage of polling to increased awareness through media coverage and also distribution of voter slips by the authorities.
Andhra Pradesh has a history of good turnout of voters in elections.
Groups of political workers clashed outside two polling booths in Kodur segment in Kadapa, the native district of Jagan. The situation was brought under control in about an hour and the polling was held peacefully, the CEO said.
Kodur reported 85 per cent polling, Bhanwar Lal said.
Voters in two polling stations under Nellore Lok Sabha seat and an equal number in Polavaram Assembly segment boycotted the by-polls due to local reasons like shortage of drinking water and land acquisition related-issues, he said.
Bypolls to 16 of the 18 Assembly constituencies were necessitated as siting Congress MLAs were disqualified by the Assembly Speaker for switching loyalty to Jagan and voting against the Congress government during a no-trust vote in December.
A sitting MLAs quit in support of Jagan, while actor- turned-politician Chiranjeevi resigned as MLA following his election to Rajya Sabha that caused bypoll in another seat.
The sitting Congress MP quit in support of Jagan which necessitated by-election in Nellore.
The outcome of the by-elections is expected to impact the political future of the YSR Congress as a dismal performance would hamper the fledgling party’s hopes to grab power in the 2014 Assembly elections.
The results are equally important for the ruling Congress as a poor performance might lead to more defections of its MLAs to Jagan’s party, thus affecting the stability of the Government. Two Congress MLAs had shifted their loyalty to the Kadapa MP soon after his arrest last month in an alleged disproportionate assets case.
The by-polls are also significant for main Opposition Telugu Desam as a poor show would demoralise its ranks in the run up to the 2014 elections.
Except minor incidents of group clashes, stone pelting and damage to a police vehicle in Warangal district, no major incident of violence was reported during the bypolls, Director General of Police V Dinesh Reddy said.
The police firmly tackled these incidents to conduct the bypolls in a fair and free manner, he said.
A total of 108 vehicles were seized and 127 persons taken into preventive custody to enable trouble-free polling. Nine election-related cases were filed in Srikakulam, Tirupati (Chittoor district), Warangal, East Godavari and Prakasam districts, the DGP said.
The Government had deployed 15,000 security personnel, including special striking forces, on poll duty, Reddy said.
The 18 Assembly constituencies where polling were held are: Parkal, Narasannapet, Payakaraopet (SC), Narasapuram, Ramachandrapuram, Polavaram (ST), Prathipadu (SC), Macherla, Ongole, Udayagiri, Rajampet, Kodur (SC), Rayachoty, Allagadda, Yemmiganur, Rayadurg, Anantapur Urban and Tirupati.
Polling began on a dull note in Ramachandrapuram (East Godavari) but picked up as the day progressed. The overall polling in the segment, where 16 candidates are in the fray, was a healthy 86.53 per cent, an official release said.
No untoward incident was reported from any part of the constituency, it said.
The CEO said live webcast of polling process was carried out in about 5,000 of the 5,413 polling stations. The students from Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) in the state were roped in for the exercise.
In Kadapa district, supporters of YSR Congress and Congress indulged in stone-pelting at two places in Kodur. Three persons suffered minor injuries, police sources said.
At Upparapalli village too, stone pelting was reported between the workers of Congress and YSR Congress.
A scuffle broke out between the workers of the two parties at Jangidivaripalli village over transporting voters to the polling booths.
Two polling officials in Ongole were found to have gone to the polling compartment in the morning. They were removed from poll duty quickly, Bhanwar Lal said.
The two personnel were, however, found to have no malafide intention and there was no complaint from polling agents over the matter, the CEO said.
A report from Visakhapatnam said the polling in Payakaraopet segment in the district passed off peacefully.
However, the villagers in Musayapet village in Payakaraopet mandal protested against more than 125 names allegedly missing from the voters’ list.
In Warangal district, police reportedly lathi-charged a group of unruly voters at Durgampet under Parkal Assembly segment. The voters, in turn, damaged a police jeep and also staged a sit-in.