Over 65 percent of 31.2 million electors Thursday cast their votes in the first phase of elections in Andhra Pradesh where ballotting was held for 22 Lok Sabha and 154 assembly constituencies.
Barring minor incidents of violence, the polling remained peaceful. No radical leftwing violence was reported from any part of the state, once a stronghold of the Maoist movement in the country.
Polling ended at 4 p.m. However, in some polling booths officials allowed those standing in the queue to cast their votes even after the scheduled time.
The state’s Chief Electoral Officer I.V. Subba Rao told reporters this evening that polling was still on in 300 to 400 polling centres as authorities extended the timing in view of the delay caused in the morning due to technical snags in electronic voting machines (EVMs).
He said 65 percent of the 31.2 million voters, half of them women, cast their votes, sealing the fate of 2,148 candidates including 315 for the Lok Sabha.
The final poll percentage will be known after 9 p.m., he said.
The Medak Lok Sabha constituency recorded highest poll percentage of 75 while Hyderabad recorded the lowest at 54 percent.
“The polling was peaceful and smooth except for an incident in the Nagarkurnool Lok Sabha constituency,” he said.
Hyderabad and nine other districts in Telangana as well as three districts of north coastal Andhra bordering Orissa went to polls in the first phase.
The ruling Congress party and the four-party alliance led by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are locked in a neck-and-neck battle in the first phase. The Praja Rajyam Party of superstar Chiranjeevi is the third major political force.
Among the prominent Lok Sabha candidates are central ministers S. Jaipal Reddy, Renuka Chowdhury and D. Purandareswari, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) president K. Chandrasekhara Rao and state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Bandaru Dattatreya.
In the Alampur assembly segment of the Nagarkurnool Lok Sabha constituency in Mahbubnagar district, villagers attacked polling stations and damaged EVMs. The polling had to be stopped in 17 polling centres. The incident occurred in Aiza area where people were protesting their inclusion in the Alampur constituency in the delimitation process.
Subba Rao said the matter was referred to the Election Commission, which will take a decision on re-poll in these booths.
Re-poll is also likely in a few other booths where the poll officials failed to operate EVMs as per the guidelines or committed some mistakes.
Clashes between activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) were reported in some places in the Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency. There were reports of similar clashes between Congress and TDP activists in some constituencies. The polling, however, was not affected.
More than 60,000 policemen and 123 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed as part of the massive security arrangements.
Though the Maoist movement has considerably weakened in the state, police are on high alert, especially in areas bordering Chhattisgarh and Orissa.
Four helicopters were put on standby to ferry men and material as a precautionary measure but they were not used.
TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu, Chiranjeevi and his family members, CEO Subba Rao, Director General of Police A.K. Mohanty and several others cast their votes in Hyderabad.
Popular actor and TDP star campaigner ‘Junior NTR’ came to a polling station on a stretcher and cast his vote. The star, who was injured in a road accident, reached the centre in an ambulance.
The second phase of polls April 23 will cover 20 Lok Sabha and 150 assembly constituencies in south coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.
Counting will be taken up May 16.
More AP 2009 Elections Results Live News
Click Here For General Elections 2009 Schedule For All States
Click Here For apelections2009.in
Click Here For 2009 General Elections Results