Hyderabad: Polling day being Friday is attributed as one of the reasons behind decrease in polling in the Old City, since the largely Muslim population there has to spare an hour or two to offer prayers at mosques.
If the peaceful polling in hyper-sensitive areas — as many as 13 constituencies — is any indication, the “Maoist threat” turned out to be a damp squib.
Prior to the election, the rebels had issued warnings advising voters to boycott the polls, pointing out that they had no faith in democracy. They had also threatened to indulge in violence at public meetings organised by political parties. Thankfully, none of the threats materialised.
Tension did prevail in Yakutpura constituency of the Old City, when activists of Majlis Bachao Tehreek (BMT) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) clashed over alleged rigging at the polling booth. BMT leader Amjed Ullah Khan had laid the charge. The police had to rush to the spot and disperse the warring groups to ensure peaceful voting.
In another incident, Congress candidate contesting from Kalwakurthy constituency, Ch Vamshichand Reddy, was attacked allegedly by BJP activists in Amangal Mandal of Nagarkurnool district. It is said the attack took place when Reddy visited a polling booth at Jaganreddypalli. He was later admitted to Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences.
The BJP spokesperson insisted that his party had nothing to do with the alleged attack on the Congress candidate.
Many voters also complained about their names missing from the voters' list. For example, more than 10 voters could not cast their votes in Malkajgiri constituency in Ranga Reddy district. Badminton star Jwala Gutta said her name wasn’t there. "I visited the polling station at 7.30 am. Out of four names of our family, three were missing. It is quite surprising,'' Gutta said.
The other highlight was the malfunctioning of electronic voting machines (EVMs) at polling stations in around 20 constituencies. Women, especially senior citizens, had to return home without waiting for election officials to replace the defunct EVMs.
Though the initial glitches surfaced in the morning, polling gained momentum by Friday afternoon. Long queues were seen at most booths by noon. Prominent Telugu film artistes including Chiranjeevi, Daggubati Rana, Krishna, Vijaya Nirmala, Allu Arjun, Akkineni Nagarjuna, Junior NTR, Manchu Lakshmi, Srikanth, Jagapati Babu, Mahesh Babu, Rajendra Prasad, Kota Srinivasa Rao, and Baahubali director Rajamouli were seen waiting in queues to cast their votes.
Most spoke about the need to vote and also appealed to others to go to polling stations and exercise their franchise.
Balladeer Gaddar, along with his wife, voted at Bhudevi Nagar polling station near Alwal in Malkajgiri constituency. The 70-year-old former Maoist ideologue exercised his franchise for the first time after enrolling his name in the voters' list.
Telangana’s caretaker chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao and his wife cast their votes at his native Chintamadaka village. "There is a pro-incumbency among voters. We are expecting to romp home,'' the TRS chief said after voting.
Polling was allowed up to 4 pm in the 13 hyper-sensitive constituencies — Aswaraopeta, Asifabad, Bellampalli, Bhadrachalam, Bhupalapalli, Chennur, Kothagudem, Mancherial, Manthani, Mulugu, Pinapaka, Sirpur and Yellendu.
In Nalgond district, police were seen using breath-analysers to prevent inebriated voters from exercising their franchise. "We made around 500 voters undergo breath-analyser checks at 52 polling booths in the district but found none in an inebriated condition,'' inspector Suresh Kumar said.
Awareness programmes organised by the Election Commission are credited with creating enthusiasm among voters.
Telangana is witnessing a triangular contest among the Mahakutami (grand alliance between the Congress, Telugu Desam Party, Telangana Jana Samithi and Communist Party of India), the TRS and BJP.
The Assembly was dissolved on 6 September this year — eight months before the end of its term. Over 1,820 candidates contested in the elections this year against 1,669 candidates in the 2014 election.
The total number of voters in the state was 2,80,64,684 — 1,41,56,182 male, 1,39,05,811 female, 2,691 transgenders and 10,038 service voters. Around 20 lakh new voters enrolled their names this year.
In the previous election, the TRS had won 63 seats, the Congress 21, TDP 15, BJP 5 and AIMIM 7. Later, 12 TDP legislators defected to the TRS.
With inputs from Mahesh Bacham
Maheswara Reddy is a Bangalore-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com.
Updated Date: Dec 07, 2018 22:09 PM