Polling began amid elaborate arrangements in all 119 Assembly constituencies in Telangana on Friday morning. Voting began at 7 am and will conclude at 5 pm, except in 13 constituencies classified as Left Wing Extremist-affected, where the process will end at 4 pm.
Over 2.80 crore electorate are eligible to exercise their franchise in the state, which has a total of 32,815 polling stations. More than 1.50 lakh polling officials, including reserve staff, are on duty. Campaigning by political parties came to an end at 5 pm on Wednesday.
Additional DG ( Law and Order) Jitender on Thursday told PTI that about one lakh security personnel, including 25,000 central paramilitary forces and 20,000 from other states, are engaged in poll duties. A senior police official said security was beefed up at bordering areas which were identified as Left Wing Extremist-affected regions.
The Assembly polls in Telangana were originally scheduled to be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections next year, but the House was dissolved prematurely on September 6 following a recommendation by the state cabinet.
The Congress has stitched together the ‘Prajakutami’ (People’s Front) along with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS) and the Communist Party of India (CPI), to take on the ruling TRS, which is led by caretaker Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR). The TRS, seeking a second term in office, is going it alone, as also the BJP.
It is to be seen if TRS president and caretaker Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s gamble to opt for early elections pays off. While KCR was without doubt the star campaigner for TRS, the Congress and the BJP fielded their bigwigs for campaigning, which turned out to be a shrill one.
For the Congress, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and party President Rahul Gandhi addressed election rallies. The BJP relied on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party president Amit Shah. Rahul Gandhi also addressed joint meetings with TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
“We will win 100 seats,” Rao repeatedly said in campaign meetings.
Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday the Congress-led alliance is confident of winning the elections “hands-down” and claimed that the KCR had shown “signs of nervousness and insecurity” in recent campaign rallies.
The BJP, which won five seats in alliance with the TDP in the last elections in 2014, said it had ensured that there is a triangular fight in Telangana this time.
Meanwhile, the state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Rajat Kumar, on Thursday said as many as 446 flying squads were in operation in the state, and they would swing into action if any irregularity was reported and 448 static surveillance teams would also keep a watch on the situation. They would wait in the wings to take action, he said.
Besides, 224 video-surveillance teams and 133 video-viewing teams had been pressed into service. There were 126 assistant expenditure observers and 123 accounting teams. For the first time, the Election Commission is using Voters Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in Telangana.
As many as 1,821 candidates, including a transgender, are in the fray. Counting of votes would be taken up on December 11.
Huge sums of unaccounted cash and illegal liquor and other goods have been seized since the Model Code of Conduct came into effect on September 27. The total seizures stood at nearly Rs 135 crore, including unaccounted cash, illegal liquor and other goods, Kumar said on Thursday, adding that the total seizures were 90 per cent more than that during the 2014 polls.