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First phase campaign ends

Curtains came down on campaigning for 21 Lok Sabha and 107 assembly constituencies in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, Hyderabad
UPDATED ON APR 19, 2004 08:38 PM IST

Curtains came down on campaigning for 21 Lok Sabha and 107 assembly constituencies in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday.

A direct contest between the Telugu Desam Party-Bharatiya Janata Party (TDP-BJP) combine and the Congress-led opposition alliance is expected in the constituencies going to the polls in the first phase on Tuesday.

On the last day, prominent leaders of all parties in the fray spent a hectic day campaigning under the scorching sun.

Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, central leader of Congress party Ghulam Nabi Azad, state Congress president D Srinivas, Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) president K Chandrasekhara Rao and BJP leaders addressed a series of meetings in the all important Telangana region in a last minute bid to woo voters.

More than 27.3 million voters in all the 10 districts of Telangana and three north coastal districts will decide the political fortunes of 132 candidates for the Lok Sabha and 857 candidates for assembly elections.

As many as 40 rebels of both the alliances are also in the field threatening the prospects of official candidates.

The ruling TDP and its ally BJP are facing the first phase with their back to the wall. A strong anti-incumbency wave, the demand for separate statehood to Telangana and the threat posed by Maoist guerillas have made the first phase a really tough one for the combine.

With 107 assembly and 15 Lok Sabha constituencies, Telangana region is likely to play a decisive role in the elections. The Congress, which is trying to regain power after a gap of nine years, has ensured that the anti-TDP-BJP votes don't get divided.

The alliance with the TRS and left parties has strengthened the party's position. The TRS is contesting as many as 42 assembly and six Lok Sabha seats.

It is fighting the state and assembly elections for the first time since it was formed by TDP rebel K Chandrasekhara Rao in 2001. The party has managed to create a wave in its favour by raking up the decades old issue.

The demand for a separate state of Telangana has become a key poll issue after three decades. The region was rocked by violent agitation in 1969-71 over the issue.

The TRS evokes memories of the Telangana Praja Samiti (TPS), which had won 10 Lok Sabha seats in the region in the 1971 midterm election. But the TPS led by former Chief Minister M Channa Reddy merged with the Congress burying the issue.

But the issue is not the only worry for the TDP-BJP combine. It is also facing the wrath of angry farmers with four years of drought, irregular power supply and high power tariff.

The TDP-BJP combine is facing a challenge from the banned People's War Group (PWG), which has called for a boycott of the elections. The killings of TDP-BJP activists by guerillas during the last few months have instilled fears in the ranks of the two parties.

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