VIJAYAWADA: Violence and technical snags in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) marred simultaneous polls held for the 175 Assembly and 25 Lok Sabha seats in the State on Thursday. While one TDP activist was killed in a clash at Veerapuram in Tadipatri Mandal of Anantapur district, a YSRC worker was thrashed to death at T Sadum village in Peddhatippa Samudram Mandal of Chittoor district. Violent clashes between the two sides were also reported from other places such as Sattenapalli, Narasaraopeta, Allagadda and Chinakudama.
Meanwhile, people, particularly women and first-time voters, turned up in large numbers to exercise their franchise; with this, the overall voting percentage in Andhra Pradesh is expected to be around 80 per cent, two per cent higher than in 2014.
As polling began in the morning, EVMs malfunctioned at many places delaying voting by at least an hour or two and prompting TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu to criticise the Election Commission. However, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Gopal Krishna Dwivedi told the media that only 381 of these machines–less than 10 per cent of total 92,000 used across the State–had developed minor technical glitches which were rectified soon. He appealed to the voters not to believe in rumours.
Long queues were witnessed at most of the polling stations right from 7 am (when the polling began). However, many had to return home disappointed due to the delay caused by EVMs. Many of them returned to their respective booths later, resulting in long queues even after 6 pm.
In a respite, complaints of missing names on the voter list were less than expected. It is important here to note that the YSRC and the TDP had alleged large-scale deletion of votes in the run up to the elections. The CEO exercised his franchise in Tadepalli where the VVPAT machine did not function when he voted.
Some violence, too, was expected, given the belief that this election is a ‘do or die’ battle for both the rival parties. But it went up a notch resulting in the death of two and injuring many others. Activists of both the parties came to blows at Veerapuram village under Tadipatri Assembly constituency. The trouble broke out when TDP candidate Asmith Reddy’s father and sitting MLA JC Prabhakar Reddy visited the village, a stronghold of the YSRC.
Kethireddy Peddareddy (the candidate from the Opposition), too, arrived at the scene and both sides pelted stones at one another, injuring at least four activists. Of the four, 45-year-old Chinta Bhaskar Reddy of the TDP died midway to a hospital. YSRC supporter Pulla Reddy is said to be in a critical condition and was rushed to the Kurnool hospital. Though the situation was brought under control after police intervention, tension continues to prevail in Tadipatri; additional forces were rushed to the region to maintain law and order.
In Thambalapalli Assembly constituency, violence broke out when YSRC activists visited T Sadum village to reportedly stop rigging by TDP MLA Shankar Yadav’s men. In the clash, Venkata Ramudu (60), a YSRC booth-level worker, died on the spot.
Sporadic clashes were also reported from Allagadda (Kurnool), Chinakudama (Vizianagaram) and Sattenapalli (Guntur). In Sattenapalli, Speaker Kodela Siva Prasada Rao was allegedly manhandled by YSRC workers. However, the opposition leaders accused Kodela of locking the polling booth.
Despite all this, the Chief Electoral Officer pointed at the peaceful conduct of polls in Naxal-affected areas and said the overall polling in the State was ‘satisfactory’.
Early on the day, TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, along with his family, exercised his franchise at a polling station in Undavalli near Amaravati.
Referring to the reports of technical glitches in EVMs while talking to reporters, he demanded that ballot papers be re-introduced. YSR Congress president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy cast his vote in his native Pulivendula in Kadapa district, from where he is also seeking re-election. After voting in Vijayawada, Jana Sena president Pawan Kalyan claimed that 10 per cent of EVMs were not working.
Arrangements at some booths were not up to the mark and Chief Secretary L V Subrahmanyam had to face questions from the public when he went to cast his vote in Vijayawada.