Campaign ends in State for second phase poll

HYDERABAD, APRIL 24. A long drawn-out and rather vexatious election campaign came to an end in Andhra Pradesh on Saturday evening setting the stage for a decisive showdown between the Telugu Desam and the Congress along with their allies on April 26.

The TDP president, Nara Chandrababu Naidu, and the Congress leader, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, star campaigners for their respective parties, called it a day after addressing huge public rallies at Nagari in Chittoor and at Nandikotkur in Kurnool district before the deadline ended at the stroke of 5.

Uncharacteristically, Mr. Naidu started his campaign three hours late on the final day in view of `rahukaalam' until 10.30 am. As a result, Mr. Naidu reached Chittoor only at 5.10 pm when he was forced to desist from making a speech. Much to the disappointment of the crowd, election officials prevented other TDP leaders too from delivering speeches. The TD leader later left for Tirumala where he offered prayers to Lord Venkateswara.

In all, the TDP supremo addressed meetings in 166 Assembly constituencies travelling by road and air, whereas the Congress leader addressed many more rallies during his `Jaitra Yatra'. Raising the pitch of his attack against the Congress and the TRS, Mr. Naidu said at a rally in Gudur that a vote for the former would be invitation to naxalism, violence and chaos. On the other hand, Dr. Reddy exuded confidence that his party would register a landslide victory winning more than two-thirds majority.

Braving the scorching sun, both leaders had travelled through the length and breadth of the four Rayalaseema and six south coastal districts, and dwelt mostly on their versions of development and the failure or implementation of irrigation projects concerning the two regions such as Pulichintala, Polavaram and Srisailam Right Bank Canal. In a sideshow on the last day, huge crowds flocked at Gudivada as the film hero, Junior NTR, undertook canvassing for Kodali Venkatewara Rao (Nani) of the Telugu Desam.

The last day saw some surprise developments. The Congress confirmed the candidature of a rebel, P. Subhash Chandra Bose, for Ramachandrapuram Assembly seat in East Godavari, doing away with the official nominee. The AICC general secretary, Ghulam Nabi Azad, declined to name his party's Chief Ministerial candidate but asserted that he would enjoy a full five-year term.

Complaints poured in at the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, M. Narayana Rao, the major one being from Congress alleging that the Home and Irrigation Ministers — T. Devender Goud and K. Srihari respectively — were camping at Bhimavaram and Kakinada for distributing bags of cash to the tune of Rs. 20 crores using official machinery, including top brass of the police, to benefit their contestants in Narasapur, Undi, Attili, Palacole and Penukonda.

The Congress' Tadikonda candidate, D.M. Vara Prasad, was `beaten up' by the police which, they said, amounted to murder of democracy.

Two Tata Sumo jeeps loaded with IML bottles were seized in Nellore district while a similar seizure was made at Bestavanipet in Prakasam district. At Kotladutti in Cuddapah district, a vehicle was found carrying cash bundles of Rs. 3.3 lakhs. A person died when the campaign vehicle belonging to the Telugu Desam met with an accident at Konakamitla near Patapadu in Prakasam district.

Recommended for you