VIJAYAWADA: The non-party gram panchayat elections have turned out to be a big political war as various parties are putting in a lot of efforts to win the maximum number of seats. The ruling YSR Congress and main opposition Telugu Desam are treating the elections as a major tug of war.
Officials said all is set for the first phase of polling on Tuesday, February 9, for which campaign ended by Sunday evening. Election trends would be known on February 9, with the counting of votes immediately after completion of the polling.
The gram panchayat elections are scheduled in four phases in AP. The polling would be from 6.30am to 3.30pm and the counting from 4pm the same day. The polling would be held to 13,133 gram panchayats and 130749 wards through 135852 polling stations.
In the first phase, polling will be held in 3,258 Gram panchayats and 32,707 wards through 33,069 polling booths.
The government and the Election Commission have made elaborate arrangements for free and fair polls. The EC allotted various symbols like scissors, stool, cooker, cot, gown, basket and other household items. The campaigns were massive in the 173 mandals.
The candidates started luring voters with personal and group sops to win the elections.
Candidates desperate for a win are setting their eyes on fellow villagers working in distant towns and cities. These families had returned to their villages during the Corona crisis and then went back to their workplaces after the Covid-19 spread subsided. These people recently came back to their native villages to celebrate three-day Sankranti and again returned to their places of work. These workers are reportedly showing a reluctance to come back to their native villages again, to cast their votes, saying it would cost them more money. Taking note, several candidates are promising such men attractive cash offers and transport allowance.
Private employees working in Telangana State, K Raju and D Trinath, said the main candidates in their village offered them to and fro bus tickets and money for other expenses if they went back home for voting. They said there were also cash offers of Rs 500 to Rs 5,000 per vote in the elections due to tight competitions in the villages. They said that this was for the first time they were seeing gram panchayat elections as such a prestigious fight like an assembly or Parliament poll.
Senior political analysts say more of the election trends would be evident on Tuesday. Former minister and senior TD leader Alapati Rajendra Prasad alleged that ruling YSRC leaders are threatening TD-supported candidates to keep off polls to facilitate “unanimous” elections and also threatening voters that the government would cancel welfare schemes if they do not help the YSRC win the gram panchayat polls.
Refuting the allegations of TD, YSRC MLA Ambati Rambabu said their party legislators did not participate in the election campaigns. “People are supporting chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy for his dedication towards implementation of the welfare schemes without bias” he said and expressed hope people would support the YSRC.
TD failed to recover in Naidu’s home district Chittoor
The Telugu Desam has failed to restrain the YSR Congress from getting sarpanchs elected unanimously in Chittoor district which is the home district of TD chief N. Chandrababu Naidu. Further, the TD performed poorly in Guntur district which was once a bastion to the party. The YSRC has performed better in most districts as far as unanimous elections go, except in Anantapur, Krishna, Srikakulam, East and West Godavari districts.
There are 169 gram panchayats scheduled for elections under the first phase in Anantapur district of which only six were elected unanimously. In Srikakulam, 39 gram panchayats were unanimous out of total 309, in Krishna 21 out of 234, in East Godavari 28 out of 366 and in West Godavari 41 were unanimous out of a total 239.
The highest number of unanimous elections were registered in Chittoor district at 112 out of total 454, followed by 67 out of 337 in Guntur district, 50 out of 206 in Kadapa, 52 out of 193 in Kurnool district, 25 unanimous out if 163 in Nellore, 35 out of 227 in Prakasam district and 42 unanimous elections out of total 340 in Visakhapatnam.
Senior political analysts opined that this marked the continued weakening of the TD in Chittoor district. The TD won only one Assembly seat, that of Chandrababu Naidu, in Chittoor district in 2019. In Guntur, the TD won two Assembly seats but one of its MLAs, Maddali Giridhar, later left the party.
The analysts said the TD had put a lot of effort into regaining public support with its continuous agitations against the YSRC government on various issues but that has failed to attract the people. They said that the YSRC which banking on welfare schemes seems to continue to have the people’s support due to the quick implementation of the schemes after achieving power.