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Voters brave heat; 2 killed in violence

Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD: Braving heat wave conditions and the tense atmosphere in some areas, people turned up in large numbers to caste vote in 140 Assembly and 20 Lok Sabha constituencies in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema on Thursday. Long queues were seen at polling booths from 7 a.m. itself as voters wanted to beat the heat. But, almost all voters, wanted to cast votes early leading to a rush at polling stations. Voters complained of lack of shelter to protect them from the scorching sun and absence of drinking water facility.

Giving the provisional poll figures, Chief Electoral Officer I. V. Subba Rao said over 70 per cent of 2.66 crore voters in ten districts exercised franchise. This figure would go up as polling continued beyond 5 p.m. in about 500 booths following the decision to allow all those waiting in queues to caste vote.

The large turnout caused all-round surprise, but this was not unexpected considering the caste polarisation and the reported efforts by the respective parties to mobilise voters along caste lines. Praja Rajyam president Chiranjeevi gave a different reason by saying that women and youth had turned up in huge numbers only to vote for him.

In spite of the heavy police presence in the faction-ridden Rayalaseema region and Palanadu area of Guntur district, the election was not trouble-free. There were four instances of police firing in the air – two in Mydukur Assembly constituency of Kadapa, native district of Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, and two more in neighbouring Anantapur district. Two persons were killed in Prakasam and Krishna districts. Kadapa district was witness to several incidents of violence.

A private tourist bus was set ablaze in Jammalamadugu and there were instances of group clashes, bomb hurling and stone pelting though there were no casualties. In Anantapur district, security personnel of Congress candidate from Rapthadu, T. Prakash Reddy, fired two rounds in the air when TDP activists attacked his vehicle while a constable did the same in Penukonda after workers of the Congress and TDP attacked him.

Two Ministers – Kasu Venkatakrishna Reddy (Narasaraopet) and Mopidevi Venkataramana (Tenali), both in Guntur district, were placed under house arrest to pre-empt trouble. Telugu Desam candidate Kodela Sivaprasada Rao was also put under house arrest in Narsaraopet where curfew-like conditions prevailed. In Nellore district too, the vehicle of Congress Lok Sabha candidate Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy was stoned.

Re-polling

Mr. Subba Rao announced that re-polling would be held in 51 booths, including 20 in Kadapa district, following destruction of electronic machines, malfunction of EVMs and complaints of rigging. Although the second and final round of elections in Andhra Pradesh has concluded, the candidates will have to wait till May 16 for results.

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