Over 43 per cent voters cast their votes on Tuesday in the elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) which was largely peaceful and smooth, barring a goof-up which led to poll postponement in one division, election officials said.
The polling passed off peacefully, barring minor incidents including clashes between supporters of rival parties.
Barring Old Malakpet division, where polling had to be postponed to December 3 due to discrepancy in ballot papers, the poll process was smooth in 149 divisions.
State Election Commission (SEC) said final polling percentage will be known late in the night or Wednesday morning. Approximate polling percentage has been ascertained from various officers and it is above 43 per cent, it said.
The fate of 1,122 candidates was sealed in ballot boxes in the bitterly contested elections, which saw a shrill campaign and attracted national attention due to participation by BJP bigwigs including Union Ministers Amit Shah, Prakash Javadekar, Smriti Irani, party's national president J.P. Nadda and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Upbeat over its victory in the recent by-election to Dubbak Assembly seat, the BJP upped the ante to turn GHMC polls into a battle to make big inroads in south India.
Ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which had won a landslide majority in 2016 polls with 99 seats in 150-member municipal body, appears confident to retain power despite the saffron surge while Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) is looking to hold on to 44 seats it won in the last elections.
December 4 will decide the fortunes of the contesting candidates
December 4 will decide the fortunes of the contesting candidates when counting of ballots will be taken up. Like in the past, voters lacked enthusiasm as several polling stations wore a near deserted look throughout the day.
Long weekend holidays and Covid-19 pandemic believed to have led to a further drop in the voting percentage. As the state government had declared Tuesday as a holiday for GHMC polls, many had turned it too long week-end to leave for their native places.
Many voters left for their native places on Saturday. Holiday on Monday on account of Guru Nanak Jayanti turned into four-day holidays for them.
In 2016 GHMC elections, 45.27 per cent voters had cast their votes. Though the political parties had hoped that the percentage will improve this time, the response by urban voters remained lukewarm. The turnout remained dull throughout the day as few voters turn out to cast their votes, despite appeal by poll authorities, all political parties, NGOs and celebrities to improve the polling percentage.
The polling began at 7 a.m. at 9,101 polling stations in all 150 divisions but the process was stopped in all 69 polling stations of Old Malakpet division after a goof-up in ballot paper was brought to the notice of poll authorities. The symbol of the CPI-M was printed as symbol of the CPI, resulting in the postponement of polling. The state poll panel announced that re-polling in the division will be held on December 3.
The Covid-19 situation is also being blamed for the poor turnout, despite the assurance by authorities that they have taken all precautions by following protocols. The election authorities conducted the polls through paper ballots instead of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
Wearing of face mask was mandatory for voters coming to polling stations. The GHMC had deployed 36,404 personnel for the polling duty. They were also provided masks, sanitisers and tissues.
Sanitisation of all polling stations was done before the commencement of poll process. A sanitiser was provided at the entry and exit point of every polling station. Circles had been marked outside the polling stations to ensure social distancing.
Director General of Police M. Mahender Reddy said over 50,000 police personnel were deployed to ensure polling in peaceful and free and fair manner. There was tension in Kukatpally when BJP workers allegedly attacked the convoy of Transport Minister P. Ajay Kumar, alleging that he was distributing money among voters.
At Upperpalli in Rajendranagar division, the TRS leaders alleged that vote of a man residing in the US was polled. Alleging irregularities, they demanded re-polling. There was tension in Jambagh division after the TRS leaders alleged that MIM leaders were resorting to rigging. Setwin polling centre at Motigalli in the old city also witnessed a clash between MIM and BJP workers.
Actor Rajasekhar, who recently recovered from Covid, was among the celebrities who turned up for voting and appealed to people to come out and exercised their right. He said though he is yet to fully recover from lung infection, he came out with his wife and actor Jeevita as responsible citizens.
Superstar Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna, Vijay Devarkonda, Ravi Teja, Manchu Lakshmi and director Krish among leading Tollywood personalities to light up otherwise dull polling.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) Working President and Municipal Administration Minister K. T. Rama Rao, Home Minister Mohammed Mehmood Ali, TRS leader K. Kavitha, Union Minister of State for Home and BJP leader G. Kishan Reddy, Hyderabad MP and MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, actress-turned-politician and Congress leader Vijayashanti and revolutionary balladeer Gaddar were among prominent personalities who cast their votes.
A total of 1,122 candidates are in the fray. The TRS is contesting all seats, the BJP has fielded candidates in 149 divisions, the Congress in 146, the TDP in 106, the MIM in 51, the CPI in 17 and the CPI-M in 12 divisions. Other recognised parties have fielded 76 candidates while 415 independents are also testing their political fortunes.