Over 60 percent of 26.6 million voters Thursday exercised their franchise in 20 Lok Sabha and 150 assembly constituencies in Andhra Pradesh as the second and final phase of polling ended amid incidents of violence in several areas.
More than 20 people were injured in clashes between activists of rival political parties while the police had to open fire at two places. This was in contrast to the first phase, which was by and large peaceful.
The polling, which began at 7 a.m., came to an end at 5 p.m. However, those who were standing in queues at polling booths were being allowed to cast their votes.
There were 254 candidates for Lok Sabha polls and 1,822 candidates for assembly elections.
The state’s chief electoral officer I.V. Subba Rao told reporters that re-polling would be held Saturday in 36 polling booths where electronic voting machines (EVMs) were damaged in clashes.
Activists of the ruling Congress party, the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and superstar Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) clashed at several places in Kadapa, Anantapur, Chittoor, Kurnool, Prakasam and Nellore districts, police said.
The second phase witnessed a keen triangular contest among the Congress, the four-party Grand Alliance led by the TDP and the PRP.
Most of the incidents of violence were reported from Kadapa, the home district of Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.
Groups of Congress and TDP workers exchanged home-made bombs in Nagasanipalli in the Mydukur assembly constituency. The state police fired 30 rounds to disperse them.
Clashes were also reported from the Pulivendula constituency, from where the chief minister is seeking re-election.
The police also opened fire in Chinnaganjam in Prakasam district when Congress and TDP activists clashed.
Tension prevailed near a polling booth in the temple town of Tirupati in Chittoor district when Congress and TDP workers tried to prevent PRP chief Chiranjeevi from visiting the booth.
There was a near-stampede when the film star-turned-politician, who is contesting from the Tirupati assembly constituency, visited a few other polling centres.
Chiranjeevi is also contesting from Palakollu in his home district West Godavari. TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu is contesting again from Kuppam in his home district Chittoor.
In Anantapur district, people in a village attacked Congress candidate Prakash Reddy in the Rapthadu constituency. Villagers of Gadekunta did not allow him to enter the village. He was last week arrested by the Bangalore police in an attempt-to-murder case and was released on bail Monday.
Polling began at 7 a.m. in 30,446 polling stations in 10 districts in south coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. There were complaints from some polling booths about non-functioning of EVMs.
The PRP, which is making its electoral debut, appears to be strong in parts of the south coastal region, posing a challenge to both the Congress and the TDP. The caste factor is likely to play a dominant role with the Kapus, who constitute a sizeable chunk in East, West Godavari and Krishna districts, rallying behind Chiranjeevi.
Though there is no anti-incumbency, the PRP factor may cut into traditional votes of the Congress, while the TDP is looking to cash in on the division of votes.
The Congress and PRP are contesting all seats on their own while the TDP has left eight assembly seats for the two communist parties. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Lok Satta of bureaucrat-turned-politician Jaiprakash Narayan are also in the fray.
Central ministers Pallam Raju and Pannabaka Lakshmi, YSR’s son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy (all Congress), actor and former central minister U.V. Krishnam Raju (PRP) and actor Murali Mohan (TDP) are among the key contestants for Lok Sabha elections.
With Rayalaseema and parts of south coastal Andhra notorious for poll violence and electoral malpractices, election authorities had deployed over 60,000 policemen and paramilitary security personnel.
They also installed closed circuit television cameras in several sensitive polling booths in Kadapa, Anantapur and Guntur. Security was up in Tirupati after Wednesday’s incident in which police tried to search Chiranjeevi’s hotel room following the Congress allegation that he was distributing money among voters.
The police retreated after Chiranjeevi insisted that they conduct the search in the presence of mediapersons.
Following protest from the PRP, Subba Rao sent a top police official to Tirupati to monitor the polling and also removed a police officer from poll duty.
The first phase of polling was held in 22 Lok Sabha and 154 assembly constituencies in Telangana and north coastal Andhra regions April 16.
As many as 69.75 percent of 31.2 million voters cast their votes in the first phase.