What makes Andhra police fidgety ahead of counting day
With the Andhra Pradesh assembly elections turning into a do-or-die battle for both Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and his challenger Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, there is a growing fear about trouble breaking out on May 23 when the results will be declared.
While the exit polls carried by national news channels by-and-large predicted victory for the YSR Congress (YSRCP), former Congress MP Lagadapati Rajagopal, known as “Andhra Octopus” for his accurate poll predictions in the past, gave the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) a clear edge. Another local news channel, TV5, also gave favourable projections for the TDP.
The conflicting predictions have only sharpened the political divide in a state where caste loyalties play a major role in deciding the poll outcome.
Anticipating violence soon after the counting gets over by late afternoon on May 23, the state police is deploying 37 companies comprising 3,700 men of the AP Special Police in 70 specific locations across the faction-ridden Rayalaseema and parts of the coastal region.
Politics of vengeance
Both Chandrababu Naidu and Jagan Mohan Reddy hail from Rayalaseema, notorious for politics of vengeance.
These sensitive locations have been identified as part of a Vulnerability Mapping exercise undertaken together by the police and the revenue department.
“We expect post-counting violence in some of these places. There are places where there is possibility of caste violence. We have also taken into account places with history of previous violence or with faction-related family rivalries, especially in Rayalaseema,” a senior police official said.
In addition to the state special police, the Andhra police have asked for 10 companies of paramilitary forces to guard the counting centres. The rules do not permit the state police to man the counting centres. Already, 20 companies of paramilitary forces have been guarding the 36 centres where the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are stored since 11 April when the polling took place for the 175-member assembly and 25 Lok Sabha seats.
Violence on polling day
Unlike Telangana where polling was peaceful, Andhra Pradesh had witnessed widespread clashes during the polling leading to the death of two persons. Anantapur district in the faction-ridden Rayalaseema region witnessed several incidents of group clashes between TDP and YSRCP workers. A TDP supporter died in the violence in Anantapur while a YSRCP worker was killed in a group clash in the Chief Minister’s home district of Chittoor.
Several people, including the Seaker of AP Assembly K Sivaprasada Rao, were injured in the violence across the state.
The Election Commission has set up 55 counting centres across the state where the counting process will commence at 8 am on May 23. Nearly 25,000 personnel are being deployed for the purpose, the state Chief Electoral Officer Gopal Krishna Dwivedi said.
The poll panel has appointed 200 observers for the state to monitor the counting process.