HYDERABAD, NOV 3: Polling is underway in the by-election to Dubbak Assembly seat in Telangana’s Siddipet district on Tuesday amid tight security arrangements.
The polling process began at all 315 polling stations at 7 a.m. and will continue till 6 p.m.
A total of 1,98,807 voters comprising 97,978 men, 1,00,778 women, and 51 service voters, are eligible to cast their votes.
The election authorities have made elaborate arrangements in compliance with COVID-19 norms like thermal screening, physical distancing, ensuring masks and gloves.
According to Returning Officer B. Chennai, more than 5,000 revenue and police personnel including men drawn from Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been deployed as part of the elaborate arrangements to ensure free and fair polls.
“We have deployed 400 polling officers, 400 assistant polling officers, and 800 additional staff, for the smooth conduct of polling,” the returning officer said.
They also identified 6,150 elderly voters. Out of these, 1,550 are more than 80 years old. The returning officer said 1,340 have opted for the postal ballot.
The authorities have allotted the last one hour for COVID patients to cast their votes. They have so far identified 73 patients.
Out of 315 polling stations, 89 have been identified as sensitive. The poll officials are monitoring the poll process at 104 polling stations through webcasting. All polling stations have been geo-tagged.
A total of 23 candidates are in the fray for the by-poll, necessitated by the death of S. Ramalinga Reddy of ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in August this year due to ill-health.
The TRS has fielded Ramalinga Reddy’s widow S. Sujatha. She is locked in a three-cornered contest with Congress party’s Cheruku Srinivas Reddy and BJP’s M. Raghunandan Rao.
While Sujatha and Srinivas Reddy, son of former minister Cheruku Muthyam Reddy, are contesting the polls for the first time, Raghunandan Rao had finished third both in 2014 and 2018 polls in the same constituency.
Banking on the performance of the government during the last six years and the sympathy factor, the TRS is confident of retaining the seat while both the opposition parties are trying to wrest it to emerge as an alternative to the TRS.
Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and his son K. T. Rama Rao, a cabinet minister and working president of TRS, both stayed away from the campaign, which was led by Chandrasekhar Rao’s nephew T. Harish Rao.
The acrimonious campaign saw the leaders of three major parties trading allegations and counter-allegations. The seizure of cash from relatives of the BJP candidate kicked up a row with the saffron party alleging that the TRS planted the money as it was scared of defeat.
Police said out of Rs.18.67 lakh seized from a relative of Raghunandan Rao in Siddipet town on October 26, the BJP leaders snatched Rs.12.80 lakh from officials.
Police also seized Rs.1 crore cash from another BJP candidate in Hyderabad on November 1. It claimed that the money was being transported to Dubbak for distribution among voters.
Tension prevailed in Siddipet town on Monday night after some local BJP leaders allegedly attacked TRS MLA Chanti Kranthi and former MLA Vemula Veeresham at a hotel. They alleged that the TRS leaders were distributing money among voters.
Harish Rao said this was a pre-planned attack by BJP leaders to create a law and order problems in the constituency.