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Andhra Assembly bypoll passes off peacefully

N. Rahul

Polling estimated at 72 p.c.; unprecedented security

PENUKONDA: The Penukonda Assembly constituency byelection passed off peacefully on Thursday. The polling percentage was officially put at record 72 per cent.

The election got underway at 7 a.m. amid unprecedented security. The authorities who left nothing to chance while making arrangements heaved a sigh of relief as the polling ended. About 6,000 policemen, including para-military forces, and 1,200 polling officials were deployed for duty.

There was a minor incident of frayed tempers between Telugu Desam and Congress supporters over the issue of agents at Naranagepalli village of Roddam mandal. The police intervened and dispersed the mob while detaining the village sarpanch and MPTC member who led the rival groups.

The Collector, Y.V. Anuradha, told The Hindu that minor complaints were received during the polling. They were immediately passed on to field-level officers and sorted out.

The mood was upbeat among men and women as they turned up to vote. Shops remained closed in all villages which went to the polls. Menfolk suspended the work of preparing agricultural fields on the eve of the onset of monsoon to cast their vote.

The heavy presence of police was a deterrent to political parties to have a free run. There were no banners nor flags near polling stations. Party supporters were kept at bay. The Hyderabad-Bangalore National Highway Seven which passes through Penukonda wore a deserted look and so did the roads linking villages.

There were long and serpentine queues before polling stations right from 7 a.m. The police had sealed the borders of the Penukonda constituency with Karnataka and other parts of the district. Gangula Bhanumathi, Congress leader and wife of Gangula Suryanarayana Reddy, main accused in the murder of the TD MLA Paritala Ravi, whose death necessitated the bypoll, was asked by the police to remain at Maddalacheruru.

She said that she would have won the election herself last time had the same scale of security been maintained. A large number of women stormed the polling station at Maddalacheruvu when Bhanumathi went to cast her vote.

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