Barring a few stray incidents, polling for 120 municipalities and nine corporations in Telangana went off peacefully on Wednesday with 70.26 percent voter turnout, out of the total 53.37 lakh eligible voters. "The municipal elections went off peacefully today except a few stray incidents," Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Jitender said in a press release.
The polling began at 7 am and ended at 5 pm. The officials said those who stood in queues were allowed to cast their votes even after the scheduled time of closure.
The elections were held for 2,971 wards after councillors to 80 wards and corporators for three divisions were elected unopposed, the Telangana State Election Commission said. There were about 12,900 candidates in the fray.
A total of 50,000 personnel were deployed for fair and peaceful conduct of elections. Special arrangements were made in districts affected by left-wing extremism, the authorities said.
As per the statistics provided by the Commission, the Congress could not field candidates in over 400 wards while BJP failed to put up candidates in over 700 wards.
In a first-of-its-kind step in the country, the commission used a facial recognition app on Wednesday in a bid to counter impersonation of voters. Ten polling stations in Kompally Municipality of Medchal Malkajgiri district were selected for the pilot project. The Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM party submitted a memorandum to the SEC urging it not to use the app as it would allegedly invade the privacy of the voters.
There were 7,961 polling stations with 45,000 staff overseeing the poll process.
The state police said it took all measures for maintaining law and order during the polling. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) working president and Minister K T Rama Rao exuded confidence about his party winning a lion's share of wards and divisions.
Both Congress and BJP, which failed to put up a good show in the rural local bodies elections held last year, were keen to prove their strength this time.
TRS General Secretary P Rajeshwar Reddy said after the polls that the people of Telangana would continue to show their faith in the K Chandrasekhar Rao-led government and elect a majority of the party candidates in the municipal elections.
Telangana BJP president K Laxman in a press conference alleged that the ruling party misused its power and "tempted" voters. He alleged that the government machinery also became a "muted spectator" to "poll violations" by the TRS party.
Ministers Jagadish Reddy, Srinivas Goud and Niranjan Reddy and Telangana Congress chief and Lok Sabha member Uttam Kumar Reddy and his wife Padamvathi were among the prominent leaders who cast their votes in their respective urban bodies.
"It is unfortunate that the ruling party resorted to misuse of power during these elections. They tried to win the elections with money power. We feel that this is not good for democracy," the Congress leader told reporters after casting his vote.
Stray incidents reported
Incidents of mild violence and allegations of irregularities during polling were reported from different districts. Nizamabad BJP MP Arvind Dharmapuri and his cadres have alleged that the police had given a "free hand" to TRS party leaders in the 41st division in his constituency, and alleged that the ruling party was distributing money and liquor to bribe voters.
Police also resorted to a mild lathicharge near a polling booth and allegedly used abusive language against BJP women leaders. A complaint was also lodged by the BJP against a sub-inspector and other officers for the alleged excess.
In Adilabad, supporters of AIMIM and an Independent candidate indulged in a face-off, while mild tension prevailed in ward numbers 21 and 41 in Jagtial municipality as BJP and Congress tried to stage a protest, alleging that TRS leaders were influencing voters by sitting in polling booths and campaigning, against the rules.
In Bandlaguda Municipal Corporation, a student voter alleged that her vote had already been cast by the time she saw her ballot paper. Meanwhile, a youth was booked in Jangaon for taking a selfie while casting vote, as it's an offence under the law.
Nirmal district Collector Prashanthi made a visit to Bhainsa, which recently witnessed a communal clash, to oversee the voting procedure.
Karimnagar Municipal Corporation will go for polls on January 25 and the results will be declared on January 27.