Braving rain, several women exercise their franchise

Except for a few incidents, polling in the first phase of Panchayat elections in the district, held in Paderu Revenue Division (Visakha Agency) on Tuesday was peaceful.

The polling percentage was 64.1, according to an official press release late in the evening.

Young and old with many women holding their months-old babies in their arms were seen going to the polling stations in the 11 revenue mandals of the Agency.

While it was cloudy or a drizzle rain experienced in places like Vantlamamidi and Gonduru in Paderu mandal, G. Madugula and Chintapalli, it rained heavily in places like Araku Valley and Anantagiri mandals. But this did not deter the voters to turn up in good numbers at different parts of the Agency. Overflowing hill streams and roads turning slushy due to rains during the last many days, forced postponement of elections in four panchayats.

With polling held from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. only, the voters were keen to exercise their franchise, in spite of the threat from the Maoists.

They walked or travelled in vehicles from their villages to the Gram Panchayat headquarters to cast their vote.

At Vantlamamidi, the MPP Upper Primary School was packed with voters at 9 a.m. as they stood in long lines in front of the 10 booths located in the classrooms.

Out of the total 1,922 votes, 228 were cast during the first hour itself.

A visually challenged voter Gammela Ambri came from Nandigaruvu village to cast his voter here with the assistance of a volunteer. But polling was not as brisk in G. Madugula.

One of the contesting candidates V. Chinna Rao said voters had to come from 25 villages located in an area of 20 km around G. Madugula. But rain, the arduous task of coming to the polling station by foot and agricultural operations picking up speed, are the reasons for the turnout not being on the expected lines, he said.

At A. Annavaram, a road side village, saw 62 per cent of voting by the noon. The polling station is located adjacent to the police station.

While the critical stage of polling passed off peacefully, trouble broke out during counting when polling staff were locked up inside the polling stations at Salugu and Ainada in Paderu mandal, according to reports reaching here.

Two groups of political parties clashed in the two villages during counting and locked up the polling staff, it was learnt.