Mumbai: Clashes broke out Thursday between workers of Telugu Desam Party and YSR Congress at various places in Andhra Pradesh even as technical glitches in Electronic Voting Machines hampered the poll process at numerous polling booths as voting got underway for 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly seats.
In Guntakal, former MLA and contesting candidate of Jana Sena Party, Madhusudan Gupta, smashed an EVM in a fit of rage alleging that party symbols were not properly printed on the ballot unit. He also shouted at the polling personnel on duty. Gupta was immediately taken into police custody.
A mandal parishad member of YSRC was seriously injured when TDP workers allegedly attacked him at a polling station in Eluru city. In Jammalamadugu in Kadapa district, tension prevailed in Ponnathota village as YSRC and TDP workers indulged in stone-throwing.
In Narsaraopet constituency in Guntur district, YSRC leaders alleged TDP men ransacked a polling station in Yelamanda village and damaged the furniture. Police personnel were also preventing YSRC sympathisers from entering into the polling booth, they alleged. Minor trouble was also reported at a few other constituencies in Guntur, Prakasam and Anantapuramu districts but neither the election authorities nor the police confirmed the reports.
State Chief Electoral Officer Gopal Krishna Dwivedi, however, said polling was going on peacefully across the state. In a statement, the CEO asked people not to believe in rumours as the poll process was going on peacefully.
He said the technical defects in EVMs, reported from various places, have been rectified.
Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and his family members voted at a polling station in Undavalli village in state capital region Amaravati. His son Nara Lokesh, incidentally, is the TDP candidate from Mangalagiri Assembly segment that covers Undavalli.
Talking to reporters, the Chief Minister referred to technical glitches in EVMs and said he was demanding that ballot papers be re-introduced. "No developed country is using EVMs as they are prone to manipulation. We have hence been demanding that we revert to the ballot paper system," Naidu said.
YSR Congress president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy cast his vote in his native Pulivendula in Kadapa district, from where he is seeking re-election. "I am very confident that people are looking for a change," Jagan, who is aspiring for the chief minister's post, remarked.
Jana Sena president Pawan Kalyan exercised his franchise in Vijayawada.State Chief Secretary L V Subrahmanyam also cast his vote in Vijayawada.
State Chief Electoral Officer Gopal Krishna Dwivedi cast his vote in Tadepalli. Interestingly, the VVPAT machine did not function when Dwivedi voted.
This is the first general election in the state after bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and creation of Telangana in June 2014.
As many as 2,118 and 319 candidates are in the fray for 175 Assembly and 25 Lok Sabha seats respectively.
Polling would end at 5 pm in the Left-wing Extremism-affected areas, mostly those bordering Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
The total number of voters in Andhra Pradesh is 39,341,770 of which 19,462,339 are men and 19,879,421 women.
The fight is clearly between the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) with Jana Sena leader and actor Pawan Kalyan likely to emerge as the X factor in this tight battle.
Chandrababu Naidu is going it alone without the BJP after their bitter divorce over the special category status to the state. YSRCP leader Jaganmohan Reddy is going it alone too.
The Congress and BJP are also contesting but look like backbenchers in this fight.
In the run-up, Naidu tried to give his campaign the feel of a grand alliance by bringing in West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee , National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to hold meetings and roadshows.
Naidu has capitalised on the corruption cases on Jagan, also insinuating that he is backed by the BJP, which denied Andhra the special status. ‘Your future is my responsibility’, has been Naidu’s battle cry.
His son Nara Lokesh debuts in these elections, standing from Mangalagiri in the capital Amaravati region.
Jagan has drawn big crowds with his mother Y S Vijayamma and sister Y S Sharmila by his side. He has promised to bring back ‘Rajanna Rajyam’ – a reference to his father Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s tenure as chief minister during which he introduced many welfare schemes.
TDP has an edge in coastal Andhra whil YSRCP hopes to do better in Rayalaseema.
But the dark horse to watch out for would be Pawan Kalyan. In 2014, Pawan Kalyan had campaigned for the BJP-TDP alliance but is now making his political debut with the Bahujan Samaj Party, CPI and CPI(M). Analysts feel he may eat in the BJP and TDP’s voteshare in seats where the population of his community, the Kapus, is high.
Pawan Kalyan is contesting two Assembly constituencies -- Bhimavaram and Gajuwaka.
In 2014, TDP had won 102 seats and its then alliance partner BJP won 4. YSRCP emerged the only opposition with 67 seats. Interestingly, the YSRCP polled less than two per cent votes than the TDP-BJP combine.
Out of 25 Lok Sabha seats, TDP got 15 seats while BJP got two. YSRCP got eight.
The Congress was completely wiped out last time as it bore the brunt of the bifurcation of Telengana by the UPA government. From above 50 per cent in 2004, its vote share dropped to an all-time low of 2.8 per cent in 2014.
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