ANDHRA PRADESH

Low turnout in Karwan

Hyderabad Sept. 26. Low polling marked the by-election held to the Karwan Assembly constituency on Friday with the percentage being just 44.19. At a few booths in Muradnagar, Mehdipatnam and Sabirnagar the percentage touched 47.64, but in most of the places it was well below 50. However, the polling was incident-free and there were no complaints of rigging.

Except for a few polling stations, most of the booths in Karwan were devoid of long queues, a notable feature in earlier elections. The low polling is attributed to authorities insisting on production of the Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPICs) or some other identity. There were complaints about missing names in voters' list and presiding officers turning away the voters.

The BJP candidate, Baddam Bal Reddy, accused the police of helping the Majlis in some pockets. The Majlis candidate, Mohd. Mukhtada, too, charged the police with helping the BJP.

The District Election Officer and MCH Commissioner, Chitra Ramachandran, said no untoward incident occurred anywhere. The Returning Officer, Vani Prasad, said the election was by and large "fair" and no complaints of impersonation were received from anywhere. She admitted that presiding officers had received complaints of people not being allowed to vote on the basis of electricity bills and names found missing in the electoral rolls. She clarified that electricity bill was not one of the documents prescribed by the Election Commission to establish identity.

The use EVMs, she said, had greatly reduced the burden. At four booths the machines developed snag in the morning, but they were soon set right. Counting of votes would be taken up on Monday and the result would be declared by afternoon. In all, there would be 25 rounds.

Polling started on a dull note with a few votes being cast in the first hour. At booth No. 232 located in Government Girls High School, Mangalhat, which has the highest number of 1,493 voters, only 312 exercised their franchise by 11.30 a.m.

In an adjoining booth 234, out of 734 voters only 85 cast their vote by afternoon. However, at booth 311 situated in Yaminul Adab School, Karwan, 25 of the 57 votes were polled by 12.30 p.m. In the first hour only three votes were polled here. This booth has the least number of voters.

In the morning hours there was low turnout of women voters and it was only in the afternoon that they were seen making a beeline to the polling booths.

At several places people were seen arguing with officials on not finding their names in the voters' list although they carried the EPICs. T. Madan Singh of New Ganganagar in Subzimandi said names of at least 1,000 persons were missing in the locality. Y. Srinivas of Durganagar came to the polling station with the EPIC issued in 1996.

But to his surprise his name did not figure in the electoral roll. Same was the experience of Syed Maqsood Husain and his wife of Khaderbagh in Kulsumpura.

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