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Parting vote with a vengeance

Hyderabad, March 23: Andhra Pradesh, voting for the last time as one state, will hold multiple elections in five weeks between March 30 and May 7.

The elections will be held to choose representatives to municipalities, municipal corporations, zilla parishads, mandal parishads, two state Assemblies and Parliament.

Since the local body polls have been postponed thrice and were pending for four years, the Supreme Court, acting on a PIL, has ordered the state to complete the elections before April 2.

The state election commissioner, P. Ramakanth Reddy, pleaded to be allowed to hold these polls after the general election but was turned down. The state poll panel and the governor, who is in charge of the administration because Andhra is under President’s rule, had argued that a huge police deployment and manpower would be required. But the top court said: “You can summon any number of police and staff to complete the task.”

Andhra has 6.24 crore voters.

Elections to almost all the 146 municipalities and 10 municipal corporations will be held first, on March 30.

On April 6, voters in 22 districts will cast their votes for the Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituencies and Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituencies.

Then will come the simultaneous polling to the 294 Assembly seats and the 42 Parliament seats — in two phases, on April 30 and May 7.

The elections over the five weeks will cover the entire polity, from village to Parliament. Political parties, already grappling with issues created by the state’s bifurcation, are finding it tough to decide candidates for several polls at one time. They have also expressed the fear that the local body election results could be seen as an “exit poll” for the general election.

State election commissioner Reddy has, however, made it clear he has no plans to hold back the results and said he would announce them on April 8.

Security shield

Andhra police have decided to deploy their elite strike force, the Grey Hounds, in the areas along the borders with Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra during the elections. Almost all Telangana districts are vulnerable to Maoist attacks, DGP B. Prasad Rao said.

In less than a month, Maoists have struck twice in Chhattisgarh, killing more than 20 securitymen.

“There could be efforts by the Maoists to stop the process of elections. We will have to stop the Maoist action teams,” Rao said.

The police were worried the Maoists could target politicians, as they had done before the Assembly election in Chhattisgarh when almost the entire Congress leadership was wiped out in an ambush, and the movement of ballot boxes or EVMs. “For this purpose we are also deploying helicopters at Visakhapatnam, Bhadrachalam and Khammam for movement of ballot boxes in the Maoist-infested areas.”

Besides Andhra police, 457 companies of the CRPF are likely to be deployed. The police have identified 26,135 of the 68678 polling stations in the state as critical.

ELECTION SEASON

  • The elections coming up in Andhra Pradesh
  • March 30: Municipal and corporation elections
  • April 6: Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituencies and Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituencies go to polls
  • April 30: Lok Sabha and Assembly polls first phase
  • May 7: Lok Sabha and Assembly polls second phase