TIRUPATI: Barring a few sporadic incidents and opposition parties raising allegations over the bogus voting, the by-election for the Tirupati (SC) parliamentary constituency remained peaceful on Saturday. Polling was spread over seven Assembly constituencies - three in Chittoor and four in Nellore districts - from 7 am to 7 pm.
Despite several messages from the ECI, urging the voters to exercise their franchise, Tirupati city pulled down the voter turnout to an all-time low at 64.29 per cent out of 17.10 lakh voters. In the 2019 general elections, the poll percentage was 78.99. The present polling percentage could be revised slightly upwards by Sunday morning, once the segment-wise figures are available, officials said.
As per data provided by officials, an average of about 64.29% of polling was recorded in all seven Assembly segments. The breakup of polling percentage was Satyavedu (72.68%), Sullurpeta (70.93%), Srikalahasti (67.77%), Sarvepalli (66.19%), Gudur (63.81%), Venkatagiri (61.50%) and Tirupati at 50.58 per cent.
In all, out of the 17,10,699 total voters, 10,99,784 exercised their franchise, whereas in 2019, around 12,87,734 votes out of the 16,50,453 electors were polled and the overall poll percentage was recorded as 78.99 per cent.
About 7.8% polling percentage was registered by 9 am on Saturday, with around 1,33,411 voters exercising their franchise. This was followed by 17.39% (2,97,457) by 11 am, 36.67% (6,27,331) by 1 pm, 47.42% (8,11,210) by 3 pm, 54.99% (9,40,678) by 5 pm and 64.29% (10,99,784) by 7 pm.
Experts say that fear among the public due to the spike in the number of Covid-19 positive cases in recent weeks might be the main reason for the fall in polling percentage. Chittoor district had recently crossed 1,000 positive cases in a single day and Tirupati urban alone has been contributing 300 cases per day on an average for the past three days.
With the district reporting a huge spike in Covid-19 cases, the district administration made elaborate arrangements for polling, ensuring physical distancing at the polling stations and making masks mandatory for all. Health staff also screened the voters and gave them sanitisers before entering the polling booths. Covid-19 infected voters were allowed to cast their voters after 6 pm.
Meanwhile, the Tirupati Urban District police, in a press release, claimed that the by-poll has been conducted peacefully without any untoward incidents, under the supervision of Kranti Rana Tata, DIG, Anantapur Range and Ch. Venkata Appala Naidu, SO, Tirupati.
However, contestants and functionaries from Telugu Desam, BJP, Congress and Left parties staged protests in Tirupati, demanding election authorities to take action against the ruling party for allegedly resorting to bogus voting in the city. They also demanded re-polling in the city.