Allaying fears of possible Maoists violence and sabotage by other criminal elements, the crucial by-elections for 18 Assembly and 4 Lok Sabha constituencies in Andhra Pradesh passed off peacefully on Thursday.
Despite intense heat wave conditions in the north Telangana region, where most of the constituencies are located, people turned up in large numbers since morning to cast their votes. An estimated 55 to 60 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise till the close of voting at 5 pm.
The by-elections, which is seen a dress rehearsal for the general elections in 2009,were necessitated after TRS, the sub-regional party, made all its 16 MLA and 4 MPs to resign their seats to protest the delay by the Congress government in the Centre and in the state in granting separate statehood to Telangana region.
A total of 174 candidates are in the fray.Among the prominent candidates are TRS chief K Chandrasekhara Rao, who is seeking re-election from the Karimnagar Lok Sabha seat. His main challenger is Congress` T Jeevan Reddy, who resigned as state minister to enter the fray.
TRS converted the by polls into referendum on Telangana, where the Congress wanted to win the minds of the people by harping on Thousands of crores spent on development projects in the region.The TDP on the otherhand harped on the rampant Corruption in the Congress regime and asked the voters to give a mandate for change.
It was a no-holds barred election with the leaders of all parties going to the extreme and often testing the patience of the Election Commission. The Commission on Thursday asked the police to book cases against Chief Minister Rajasekhar Reddy for addressing a televised press conference to highlight his governments achievements on Wednesday, a day after campaigning came to an end. The Commission has also directed cases to be booked against TV channels for telecasting the same.
The Commission also directed cases to be booked against BC welfare minister Mukesh Goud who allegedly roughing up CPM member of Rajya Sabha, Madhu, who was protesting against alleged distribution of money by the ruling party among voters.
Elsewhere Congress activists were caught by rivals while distributing money and liquor bottles to influence voters. Stray incidents of clashes among candidates supporters and rigging were reported too. The votes would be counted on Sunday.