Andhra Pradesh

64% voter turnout in Tirupati byelection

People arrive to cast their vote at a polling station in Tirupati on Saturday.  

Amid Opposition charge of ‘rigging by the ruling YSR Congress Party’ and a surge in COVID-19 cases, polling ended on an acrimonious note with over 64.29% of the electors voting in the by-election, which was by and large peaceful, for the Tirupati Lok Sabha (SC) constituency on Saturday.

Coronavirus incidence cast its shadow on the polling which began on a dull note with only 7.80% of the over 17.10 lakh voters exercising their franchise in the first two hours of polling held in adherence to the safety protocol even as EVMs in some stations malfunctioned in the bypoll caused by the death of sitting YSRCP MP B. Durgaprasad.

The turnout improved with 36.67% voting by 1 p.m. and 54.99% by 5 p.m., SPSR Nellore District Collector and Returning Officer K.V.N. Chakradhar Babu said. The heatwave sweeping across the constituency brought a good number of voters to the polling stations at dusk and polling continued beyond the deadline of 7 p.m. in some polling stations. In 2019, the constituency recorded over 79% polling.

GVL tweet

The opposition Telugu Desam Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress demanded a repoll under CAPF security cover alleging large-scale ‘bogus voting’ in several booths by the YSRCP by mobilising ‘outsiders’ in private buses and vans, a charge denied by the ruling party.

MP and BJP national official spokesman G.V.L. Narasimha Rao tweeted, “Bogus voting by ruling @YSRCParty reported on a large scale in Tirupati (SC) Lok Sabha bypoll. State administration, police are mute spectators to this subversion of democracy. Request @ECISVEEP to order repoll in all such booths.''

The TDP candidate and former Union Minister Panabaka Lakshmi and YSRC nominee Dr. M. Gurumoorthy were among those who exercised their franchise early in the day.

The electors were allowed to vote only after thermal scanning and washing of hands with a sanitiser by the over 10,850 polling staff at 2,470 stations, including 877 critical ones, in the Assembly segments of Sarvepalli, Gudur, Sullurpeta and Venkatagiri in SPSR Nellore district and Tirupati, Satyaveedu and Srikalahasti in the neighbouring Chittoor district. The process was webcast from 1,241 polling stations. Twenty-three companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and AP Special police provided security cover.

Voters were not allowed to enter the stations without wearing a face mask. COVID-19 patients and those with suspected symptoms were allowed to vote under medical supervision for an hour from 6 p.m.

Poll staffer found positive

Polling was stopped for over 30 minutes in a booth in Kaluvoya mandal in Venkatagiri Assembly segment as an election staffer was found COVID positive. The process was resumed after sanitising the station. Police had a tough time in removing a PDS van with the picture of Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy parked near a polling station by a ration dealer allegedly to woo voters at Chembadipalem in Gudur Assembly segment. Voters in Buradagali Kothapalem in Chittamur mandal boycotted the bypoll in protest against bad roads in the village. Efforts by YSRCP MLA V.Varaprasad to persuade them to vote went in vain.

Appeal by officials

Tirupati Special Correspondent adds: The poor voter turnout in the morning hours made the election authorities to appeal at regular intervals through media to the voters to exercise their franchise. The Tirupati Assembly segment recorded the lowest percentage of 45.84 till 5 p.m., while Sullurpeta was the highest at 60.11.

Congress candidate Chinta Mohan exercised his franchise in his Khadi colony locality in Tirupati.

Chittoor Collector M. Hari Narayanan, election observer Dinesh Kumar Giridhar Lal and MCT Commissioner P.S. Girisha stayed at the control room and monitored the process through webcasting. They also rushed to a few places to give directions to the polling staff.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 12:21:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/64-voter-turnout-in-tirupati-byelection/article34347498.ece

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