ANDHRA PRADESH

Curtains down on second phase campaign

VIJAYAWADA, APRIL 24. The mikes and loudspeakers suddenly stopped their blare, the voices of the netas stopped and scores of vehicles adorned with flags, banners and buntings of different political parties that zoomed past the various constituencies came to a standstill. Curtains came down on the campaign for the two Lok Sabha and 17 Assembly constituencies which are going to the polls in the second phase of the elections in Krishna district after the 5 pm deadline set by the Election Commission of India on Saturday.

With the elections turning out to be a do-or-die battle for the major contenders, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Congress, the district witnessed an intense campaign phase what with a majority of senior leaders from both sides taking it as a prestige issue.

The intensity of the campaign was so much that the top leaders of both the parties, the former CLP leader, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy on behalf of the Congress and the TDP president, N. Chandrababu Naidu, representing his party toured the length and breadth of the district seeking support for their respective candidates. While the former CLP leader received overwhelming support in the form of groundswell of the crowds that thronged the venues of his meetings, the TDP president's meetings also attracted none too less people who lined up the streets wherever he went.

Mr. Naidu's road shows drew impressive crowds, while Dr. Reddy found it hard to inch forward to his next destination with surging crowds stopping his campaign van everywhere. The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, made it a point to personally see the response to the party by visiting the district while the party's senior leaders, Mani Shankar Aiyer and Ghulam Nabi Azad, participated in several election meetings.

The CPI general secretary, A.B. Bardhan, and the CPI(M) politburo member, Sitaram Yechuri, were among the other leaders who campaigned for the Congress-Left candidates in the district. Film stars, including Laya, Vijayashanti and others cast their spell on the people on behalf of the TDP-BJP.

The entry of noted industrialist, Lagadapati Rajagopal, and noted film producer, Chalasani Aswani Dutt, who are pitted against each other in the Vijayawada Lok Sabha, into active politics only added glitter to the show with the new entrants taking up the campaign in their own individual style.

With his unique style, Mr. Rajagopal left the other contestants from the district far behind in his campaign trail. While Mr. Rajagopal himself walked for over 90 km - from Garikapadu village on the Krishna-Nalgonda border to Vijayawada city - as part of his Jawahar Jyoti Yatra to spread the Congress message, music groups engaged by him to take the party's policies effectively to the people stood out as an attraction in the election campaign.

Campaign ends in Guntur

Campaign for the 19 Assembly and four Parliamentary constituencies in Guntur district came to an end on Saturday evening with all the candidates covering the urban pockets of their respective areas and drawing strategies with the polling agents for preventing attempts by others to take any undue advantage.

The Minister for Health, Kodela Siva Prasada Rao, who was busy canvassing for party candidates all over the district during the past fortnight, extensively campaigned in Narsaraopet town on Saturday.

The District Election Officer, K. Ramakrishna Rao, and the Superintendent of Police, Ravi Shankar Ayyannar, jointly addressing a press conference here in the morning, said that all arrangements were in place for conduct of free and fair polls.

All the loopholes that had led to the malfunctioning of about eight electronic voting machines in the first phase of polling were corrected and mock polling was conducted at a few places to remove the myth that these machines were casting votes for a particular party at regular intervals, he said.

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