Andhra parties should douse fires they lit

It is well-known that the region has a history of factional feuds. With warring leaders fighting for political power, the elections served as a flashpoint.
In retaliation to the attack on TDP leader Pulivarthi Nani, party activists staged a demonstration at Sri Padmavathi Mahila Visva Vidyalayam.
In retaliation to the attack on TDP leader Pulivarthi Nani, party activists staged a demonstration at Sri Padmavathi Mahila Visva Vidyalayam.Photo | EPS

The post-poll violence in Andhra Pradesh appears to have caught the police off-guard. Though security arrangements were made keeping in view the highly inflammable political environment, the fact that violence erupted in several places not only on polling day but also continued the next day points at a clear failure. Thus far, at least 300 people have been detained and dozens arrested in connection with the ugly incidents that unfolded in the Palnadu region, Tirupati, Tadipatri and other places.

The confrontation between activists of the opposition TDP and the ruling YSRC was waiting to happen. We have earlier highlighted how leaders from both the sides have been using provocative language and warned it could lead to fights. Take the series of incidents in Palnadu. It is well-known that the region has a history of factional feuds. With warring leaders fighting for political power, the elections served as a flashpoint.

It is obvious the factions were well-prepared, going by how they fought pitched battles with Molotov cocktails. The police unearthed knives, petrol bombs and country-made bombs in Macherla mandal, indicating that everything was pre-planned. The assault on the TDP candidate in Tirupati also does not look like a spur-of-the-moment act. Fortunately, no one has died. One wonders how mobs could gain control of areas in the presence of police personnel.

The Election Commission of India has rightly taken a serious view of the incidents and summoned the state chief secretary and the DGP to personally explain the situation. After hearing their versions, it suspended the SPs of Palnadu and Anantapur, and transferred the district collectors of Palnadu and Tirupati.

Besides ordering departmental enquires, it directed that a special investigation team probe the violence and submit a report. On the state’s request, the commission further instructed the home ministry to retain 25 Central Armed Police Force companies in the state for a fortnight after the counting of votes.

It is a welcome intervention. Political parties, on their part, need to appeal to their followers to exercise restraint. It is tragic that they have not yet come forward to actively douse the fires, and instead seem busy pointing fingers at each other. Stringent action must be taken against the perpetrators, not just the officials, and an example be made of them.

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