67 pct ballot cast in Telangana polls
An estimated 67 per cent of over 2.80 crore voters cast their ballots in Telangana on Friday in an election that will test the popularity of the ruling TRS supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao and the wisdom of the great gamble he made in going for early elections. Barring stray incidents of clashes and malfunctioning of voting machines at a few places, the polling was largely peaceful, including in areas affected by Maoist insurgency. "As of 5 pm, we have reports that the polling was at 67 per cent.
Webcasting shows that some people are still in queues. So, we expect the polling to go up by another two per cent," the state's chief electoral officer Rajat Kumar told reporters. Kumar said four people were injured in a clash between Congress and Telangana Rashtra Samithi workers at Kosigi. Reports said TRS and Congress workers clashed at a place in Nagar Kurnool district. Kumar said there was a delay in the start of polling at some booths on accounts of malfunctioning of EVMs and voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines.
Thirty-odd complaints of model code violation were also received. He said officials had to replace 754 Ballot units, 628 control units and 1,444 VVPAT machines which were used for the first time in Telangana. The CEO said Income Tax and state government, officials have seized unaccounted cash and other goods worth Rs 138 crore since the Model Code of Conduct came into force in September last week. The vote was taken for all the 119 seats of Telangana assembly for the first time after the division of Andhra Pradesh and creation of India's youngest state in 2014.
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narasimhan, caretaker Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, ministers KT Rama Rao and T Harish Rao, BJP's Telangana president K Laxman, state Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi was among leaders who cast their ballots. Uttam Kumar Reddy alleged that his party candidate in Kalwakurthy Assembly segment Vamsichand Reddy was attacked by BJP cadre in Amangal where he had gone to observe the poll pattern.
However, BJP's chief spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao denied the allegation claiming the Congress was "playing victim games sensing disastrous defeat." TRS supremo and caretaker Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, widely credited for the creation of Telangana exuded confidence that his party would come back to power with a "huge majority." Uttam Kumar Reddy hoped that Congress-led "Praja Kutami" would win and get over 80 seats in the 119-member House. Reddy, who spoke before the polling concluded, said the number could go up if the voting percentage was higher. Adding a dash of glamour to the poll process, celebrities turned up in good numbers to cast their votes.
Actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi, veteran actor Krishna, popular heroes Nagarjuna, "junior" NTR and Mahesh Babu, and 'Baahubali'-fame director S S Rajamouli exercised their franchise. Tennis ace Sania Mirza and star badminton player P V Sindhu also cast their vote. Chiranjeevi, Krishna, Nagarjuna, "junior" NTR and Sania Mirza turned up at the polling stations along with their family members to vote. At some places, people were seen taking selfies with celebrity voters.
However, disappointment was in store for shuttler Jwala Gutta, who said she could not vote as her name was missing from the voter's list. Reacting to her complaint, Rajat Kumar said he has sought a report from the district Electoral officer concerned.
"I sincerely apologise to people who could not vote as their names were missing. We will certainly rectify mistakes in the voter's list," he said. Additional DG (Law and order) Jitender said about one lakh security personnel, including 20,000 drawn from other states and 25,000 central paramilitary forces, were deployed to ensure peaceful polls.
The Congress has stitched together "Praja Kutami" (People's Front) with the TDP, Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS) and CPI in a bid to wrest power from the TRS, which is seeking a second term in office. The TRS has gone it alone in the polls and so has the BJP. As many as 1,821 candidates including a transgender are in the electoral fray. Voting began at 7 AM and concluded at 5 PM, except in 13 constituencies classified as Left Wing Extremist-affected where the process ended at 4 PM itself. Counting of votes would be taken up on December 11.
(With inputs from agencies.)