The crucial by-elections to 18 Assembly constituencies and one Lok Sabha constituency in Andhra Pradesh witnessed brisk polling on Tuesday amid incidents of violence in some areas including Kadapa, the parliamentary constituency of arrested YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy.
A record more than 40 per cent voters exercised franchise in the first half of the day with Pratipadu in Guntur district leading the way with more than 50 per cent polling in the first four hours. However, Parkal constituency in Warangal district recorded the lowest turn out — 35 per cent by 1 pm.
The Chief Electoral Officer Bhanwar Lal told the media that the situation under control and no major untoward incidents were reported. “In 16 polling stations we had to change the electronic voting machines due to the technical snags,” he said. However, there were reports of voters boycotting the poll process in nine villages.
In Nellore Lok Sabha constituency more than 500 voters of two villages boycotted the polling in protest against the acquisition of lands for a Special Economic Zone.
In Rayachoti constituency in Kadapa district, stones were pelted at the local Telugu Desam Party leader’s house leading to some tension.
In Urakonda village in Parkal angry voters damaged a police vehicle after the cops beat up some of the voters who came to a polling station in a jeep.
The villagers got angry when a woman fell from the jeep in the melee.
Congress and YSR Congress workers clashed in Kondareddypalle in Nellore district and nine people were injured in stone pelting. The trouble started with a YSR Congress leader alleging bogus voting by the Congress party. Heated exchanges led to violence. The police resorted to lathicharge to bring the situation under control.
In Railway Kodur in Kadapa district, clashes were reported between YSR Congress and Congress workers while in the Allagadda constituency a constable on the polling duty died due to the heart attack.
Meanwhile, presiding officer S Sheshagiri Rao and micro-observer V Sheshagiri were arrested from the Ongole assembly constituency after they were caught red-handed influencing voters in the booth, through web-casting cameras. While one of them had entered the polling booth in violation of the rules, the other was asking the voters to vote for the YSR Congress.
On orders of the Bhanwar Lal the Prakasham district collector got them arrested.
As part of the elaborate security arrangements to ensure smooth conduct of the polls, authorities were monitoring the polling through thousands of video cameras. Ninety five per cent of the 5,413 polling stations had video cameras installed, which were linked to the web.
On Monday night in a major crackdown the Election Commission dismissed three senior police officers from the polling duty in Visakhapatanam, Kadapa and Guntur districts and ordered them to leave the districts as they were allegedly supporting one party against the other.
Tension was prevailing in most of the constituencies as the by-elections have become a do or die battle for the ruling Congress party and its main rival the YSR Congress.
The elections are considered crucial as they are expected to have a bearing on the future of Jagan, who has been arrested in connection with a disproportionate assets case.
If Jagan’s party wins most of the assembly seats it will spell serious trouble for the Congress government in the state. In a House of 294, the majority of Congress has reduced to razor thin 151. There are speculations that more Congress MLAS will switch the sides if Jagan’s party does well in the by-polls.
On the other hand if the Congress is able to wrest some of the seats or if the TDP wins a few, trouble will mount for Jagan.
With inputs from PTI
Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad