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Images: Telangana ready for Tuesday's showdown

Last updated on: July 27, 2010 09:02 IST

Polling for Andhra by-poll begins

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Vicky Nanjappa and Agencies

Polling for 12 assembly constituencies in Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh, where by-elections were necessitated following the resignation of sitting members of the legislative assembly in support of the separate statehood demand, began at 7 am on Tuesday.

For the first time after 1998, ballot papers staged a comeback in the by-polls.

With the total number of candidates exceeding the maximum limit of 64 for an Electronic Voting Machine, the EC was forced to conduct the polling with ballot papers in five constituencies. EVMs cannot be used with the existing technology if the total number of nominees is over 64.

Consequently, ballot boxes are being used in Yellareddy, Koratla, Sircilla, Huzurabad and Warangal West, while it is EVMs as usual in Sirpur, Chennur (Scheduled Caste), Mancherial, Nizamabad Urban, Dharmapuri (SC), Vemulawada and Siddipet.

State Congress president D Srinivas, TRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao's son K T Rama Rao are among the prominent candidates who are in fray for the polls.

The total number of electors in the 12 assembly segments is 23,59,228 that includes 11,75,117 men and 11,84,111 women.

According to state Chief Electoral Officer I V Subba Rao, 1,582 EVMs and 1,201 ballot boxes are being used for polling. The total number of polling stations is 2,783.

The total number of contesting candidates is 435 that includes 72 in seven seats where EVMs are being used and 363 in five segments where polling is on with ballot papers.

The EC has identified 450 polling stations as hyper-sensitive and 460 as sensitive. In addition to available district police forces, 80 companies of Central Para-Military Forces are providing security to the exercise.

Rao said 12 Central observers and 2,783 micro-observers would oversee the polling process. The number of polling officers is 13,915.

The EC is doing videography in the polling stations and 2,039 video cameras have been provided for the purpose.

For the first time, the CEO has provided 3G mobile phones to polling officials in Nizamabad and Warangal to obtain quick footage on polling.

The counting of votes will be taken up on July 30. The Telangana movement, which had gone quiet after a major outburst, is expected to gain momentum once the results of these by-elections to 12 seats are out.

The by-polls to the 12 seats are being held after 12 legislators supporting the Telangana movement resigned from their seats in support of the movement. Of the 12 seats, 10 were in possession of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti while Bharatiya Janata Party and Telugu Desam Party had the other two.

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Image: TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao waves to his supporters
Photographs: Rediff Archives
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Telangana ready for Tuesday showdown

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All eyes, however, are on the Nizamabad Urban assembly segment where Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee president Dharmapuri Srinivas, who tasted a bitter defeat in the 2009 general elections, is desperately seeking a win over his BJP rival Y Lakshminarayana.

Nizamabad Urban segment has a large chunk of Muslim voters numbering around 75,000 who stayed away from polling in 2009 dealing a blow to Srinivas as BJP candidate Lakshminarayana romped home with a comfortable majority of 11,015 votes.

This time, however, Srinivas has held a series of meetings with various communities, including Muslims, pleading with them to elect him to the legislature. The BJP candidate is banking on the Telangana sentiment and the "sympathy" factor over his resignation for the statehood cause in February.

The TRS is keen to wreck the PCC chief's victory chances in Nizamabad Urban as much as the Congress is seeking to defeat TRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao's son K T Rama Rao in Siricilla constituency.



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Telangana ready for Tuesday showdown

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Rama Rao scraped through a multi-cornered contest in 2009 by a margin of 171 votes. It was a TRS rebel candidate K K Mahender Reddy who gave Rama Rao a run for his money. Now, Mahender is the Congress candidate in Siricilla but the political scene has undergone a lot of change in the last one year.

Rama Rao, a rank "outsider" in Siricilla in 2009, built his base since his election for the first time as an MLA, edging out Mahender Reddy.

If one looks at the manner in which political parties have been campaigning, a clear divide shows up between the leaders in the Telangana region and the rest of Andhra Pradesh.

Congress leader D Srinivas' statement is an indicator of the same.

A couple of days ago, during the campaign phase, he had announced in public that if the Congress were to win all 12 seats, he would ensure that Telangana state is given in a golden plate.

The Telegu Desam Party too subscribed to the same view and spoke about the development that had taken place during the regime of Chandrababu Naidu.

In the rest of Andhra Pradesh, both these parties have been resisting the formation of a separate Telangana.



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Telangana ready for Tuesday showdown

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Another interesting aspect is that not a single known face from either the Congress or TDP, including, Jagan Mohan Reddy, K Rosaiah or Chandrababu Naidu have campaigned for these by-polls.

It is said that party leaders had specifically requested these leaders not to campaign for them in these by-polls since the tempers of the people were very high and it could prove disastrous to the party in the Telangana region.

KCR's nephew T Harish Rao, however, faces no real contest in the Siddipet constituency. He won the 2009 general election with a margin of 64,677.

While the TDP can hope to secure the second place, with actor Babu Mohan in the fray, the Congress, which had to forego its deposit in the last two elections, is only hoping that it will be not be repeated.

The Congress fielded three former ministers Md Ali Shabbir, G Vinod and J Ratnakar Rao from Yellareddy, Chennur (SC) and Korutla constituencies.

All of them having been seeking votes claiming they would get back into the state Cabinet, if elected, and develop the respective constituencies.



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Telangana ready for Tuesday showdown

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All three, however, are facing rough weather in these segments like in 2009 when they were trounced comprehensively. Former MP Indrakaran Reddy of Congress is giving a semblance of fight to his TRS rival Kaveti Sammaiah in Sirpur constituency. But the internal wrangling in the Congress may mar his prospects.

Other aspirants for Sirpur seat like Koneru Konappa and Premsagar Rao are said to be working against Indrakaran. However, Indrakaran succeeded to win over Konappa and secure his support but Premsagar Rao is said to have not fallen in line.

Indrakaran also has been claiming that he would become a minister if elected to the assembly. In Warangal West assembly constituency as well, the Congress is locked in an intense fight with the TRS. Congress K Dayasagar Rao has a strong base in the segment and the sympathy that he lost the 2009 polls.

TRS' D Vinay Bhaskar, who won with a margin of over 6,600 votes against Dayasagar last time, is banking on the Telangana sentiment.

The fight for Huzurabad seat in Karimnagar district looks interesting with  three main candidates E Rajender (TRS), M Damodar Reddy (TDP) and V Krishnamohan Rao (Congress) in the fray.



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Telangana ready for Tuesday showdown

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Apart from the sentiment factor, his good relations with the local people should stand Rajender in good stead. The TDP's strong cadre base in Huzurabad should help Damodar Reddy put up a good fight.

The Congress has deployed senior leaders like Karimnagar MP Ponnam Prabhakar and Chief Whip Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka to ensure Krishnamohan Rao's success.

The Vemulawada seat in Karimnagar district was won by Chennamaneni Ramesh of TDP in 2009.

Ramesh, however, switched sides to the TRS after he quit the Assembly in February this year on the statehood issue.

The large chunk of voters belonging to his Velama community and the support of BJP will be the additional advantage working in Ramesh's favour apart from the Telangana sentiment and the sympathy over his resignation.

Ramesh is the nephew of former Union Minister Vidyasagar Rao of BJP. In Dharmapuri and Mancherial too the TRS may find the going smooth though the TDP is giving some fight in Mancherial.



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