Over 31 million voters will Thursday decide the political fortunes of 2,148 candidates in 22 Lok Sabha and 154 assembly constituencies in the first phase of polls in Andhra Pradesh.
The election authorities have made elaborate arrangements for smooth and free and fair polls in all 10 districts of Telangana including Hyderabad and the north coastal Andhra, comprising three districts bordering Orissa.
The ruling Congress party and the four-party Grand Alliance led by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are locked neck and neck in the poll battle which has the Praja Rajyam party of superstar Chiranjeevi also in the fray seeking to prove itself as the third major political force.
As the state is notorious for distribution of cash and liquor by political parties to buy votes, the poll officials and the police are keeping a tight vigil. The police have already seized over Rs.250 million (Rs.25 crore) in cash and huge quantity of liquor across the state in searches of vehicles during last two weeks.
The police Tuesday seized Rs.12.6 million (Rs.1.26 crore), the highest in a single day. ‘Attempts are being made to distribute cash and liquor but we are on alert to foil them,’ said state Chief Electoral Officer I.V. Subba Rao.
Police, income tax and excise authorities are maintaining tight vigil at 752 check posts opened for areas going to polls in the first phase.
Under the first phase, more than 31.2 million (3.12 crore) voters, half of them women, will decide the fortunes of 315 candidates for Lok Sabha and 1,833 candidates for assembly elections.
The official said 36,320 polling booths were set up for the first phase of polls. ‘We are using 72,972 electronic voting machines in these booths,’ he said. The polling time is 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
As many as 60,947 policemen and 123 companies of central paramilitary forces like Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security Force (BSF) have been deployed as part of the massive security arrangements. There will be 3,530 mobile parties, 984 striking forces and 353 special striking forces to maintain peace and deal with any eventuality.
The authorities are also using four helicopters to ferry men and material to inaccessible areas. They have identified 2,109 troublesome, 4,848 sensitive, 3,090 hyper-sensitive and 2,337 extremist affected polling stations.
Though there is no threat from Maoists, the authorities are not taking any chances. Police officials said the election were being held without any threat of Maoist violence in Telangana, which was once the stronghold of Maoists. However, the police are on high alert on the borders with Chhattisgarh and Orissa border in view of the recent incidents of Maoist violence in neighbouring states.
Prominent among the candidates for Lok Sabha elections include union ministers S. Jaipal Reddy, Renuka Chowdary and D. Purandareswari, All India Congress Committee secretary Madhu Yaskhi Goud, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) president K. Chandrasekhara Rao, film actress Vijayashanti of TRS, TDP leader K. Yerran Naidu, CPI national secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy, Praja Rajyam vice-president T. Devender Goud, Praja Rajyam general secretary Allu Aravind and state BJP president Bandaru Dattatreya.
The key candidates for assembly elections include state Congress president D. Srinivas, assembly speaker K.R. Suresh Reddy and several state ministers.
The second phase of polls on April 23 will cover 20 Lok Sabha and 150 assembly constituencies in south coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.
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