60 to 65 percent polling in Andhra Pradesh (Second Lead)

Hyderabad, April 16 (Inditop) A moderate 60 to 65 percent polling was recorded Thursday in the first phase of elections in Andhra Pradesh where ballotting was held for 22 Lok Sabha and 154 assembly constituencies.

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.

Officials said 60 to 65 percent of the 31.2 million voters, half of them women, cast their votes, sealing the fate of 2,148 candidates – of whom 315 were for the Lok Sabha.

Barring minor incidents of violence and rigging, the polling remained peaceful.

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 Grand Alliance led by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are locked in a neck and neck battle in constituencies going to polls in the first phase. The Praja Rajyam Party of superstar Chiranjeevi is the third major political force.

Among the prominent Lok Sabha candidates are union ministers S. Jaipal Reddy, Renuka Chowdary and D. Purandareswari, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) president K. Chandrasekhara Rao and state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Bandaru Dattatreya.

The polling booths opened at 7 a.m. but the voting process was delayed in several centres due to non-functioning of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

“There were complaints from 40 to 50 places that EVMs were not functioning but the problem was rectified,” state chief electoral officer I.V. Subba Rao told reporters.

Polling came to a halt in 19 polling centres in Aiza area in Alampur assembly constituency in Mahabubnagar district when some people damaged the EVMs and attacked the election staff and policemen. The locals were protesting against the inclusion of their area in Alampur constituency in the delimitation process.

The Election Commission has ordered re-poll in 17 polling booths. More than 60,000 policemen and 123 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed in the constituencies.

Though the Maoist movement has considerably weakened in the state, the police are on high alert, especially in areas bordering Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

Four helicopters were used to ferry men and material to inaccessible areas.

Chiranjeevi and his family members, TRS president K. Chandrasekhara Rao, chief electoral officer 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.