They travelled to their constituencies and voted in large numbers.

 

Hyderabad: Around 12 lakh Andhra voters who are settled in Telangana’s Hyderabad city are set to decide the outcome of Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh. As they all have votes in their native villages and towns in Andhra, these settlers have travelled all the way to their respective constituencies in the last three to four days and voted in large numbers.

These settlers are not expected to vote for any single party, though their presence is bound to impact the elections’ outcome that will be known on 23 May. As the overall difference between the TDP and YSR Congress in 2014 was just around 5 lakh votes, the voting by a large number of Andhra settlers from Hyderabad will definitely tilt the scales in Andhra Pradesh elections this time.

An unprecedented number of people travelled by all means of transport—road, rail and air—in the last week so as not to miss an opportunity to play a role in the electoral battle that was fiercely fought between the ruling TDP and the main Opposition YSR Congress. Most of the Andhra settlers in Hyderabad are in business, service and IT fields.

Though a majority of them have votes in Telangana, too, they preferred to travel back to their hometowns as the elections in Andhra turned interesting because of the close contest between TDP’s Chandrabau Naidu and YSR Congress’ Jagan Mohan Reddy.

On the contrary, the elections in Telangana for the Lok Sabha appeared one-sided in favour of the ruling TRS.

Avinash Gudipati, 48, a software professional, told this newspaper on Friday: “We—I and my wife—also have votes in Malkajigiri Lok Sabha seat in Hyderabad city limits, but here, the TRS enjoys a clear edge and there appeared no point in voting for any of the contestants here. In Guntur city in Andhra, where we have lands and votes, the contest is too close to call and we wanted to go there.”

For a number of Andhra settlers, the elections in Telangana are a dull affair as TRS has won the Assembly elections in December and K. Chandrasekhar Rao is back as the Chief Minister. The question of CM’s post is at stake in Andhra Pradesh which went to polls for both the Assembly and Lok Sabha on Thursday and most settlers wanted to become direct players in the game of Andhra elections. For that, they were ready to spend a bomb on travelling to their home towns for 24 hours. For instance, Avinash had spent around Rs 4,000 for travelling by a private luxury bus from Hyderabad to Guntur, a distance of 300 km. During normal days, the bus fare between the two cities does not exceed Rs 700 per head, but now, the operators charged a premium in view of the huge rush.

The passenger rush from Hyderabad to most of cities and towns in Andhra Pradesh on 8 and 10 April was huge. The South Central Railways (SCR), headquartered in Secunderabad, ran a dozen special trains for 1.24 lakh passengers to Andhra destinations on 10 April alone.

Officials of SCR said that as many as 5.6 lakh people had gone to Andhra districts in the last three days, apparently to cast their votes.

This is in addition to another five lakh people who travelled by buses, both RTC and private ones in the last three days. Telangana RTC officials were unprepared for this rush during election time. They couldn’t arrange enough special buses to various destinations in Andhra Pradesh, though the public was ready to book bulk tickets. There was 300% spurt in demand for buses from Telangana, said RTC officials.

Besides, another two lakh people travelled by their own transport, including cars, on 9 and 10 April.

The rush was so huge that the toll gates on National Highway 65 that connects Hyderabad and Vijayawada were left wide open. The police were posted at five toll gates to send the travelers free so that there won’t be any traffic jams on the highway.

Sources from both TDP and YSR Congress said that most of the voters from Hyderabad were brought to their hometowns in Andhra by the local candidates contesting from the two parties.

“As a party, we have not sponsored any buses or transport for those who came from Hyderabad, but at most places, the candidates have funded the expenditure,” a leader of YSR Congress from Vijayawada said.

An MLA candidate of TDP from Visakhapatnam had arranged a luxury coach for voters from his constituency settled in Kukatpally locality in Hyderabad city on 9 April. Knowing this, his TDP rival, a sitting MLA, too, organised a video coach from the BHEL Township in Hyderabad. Of course, both the candidates are well-off to bear the costs.

The huge election migration from Hyderabad to Andhra Pradesh had its impact on Telangana’s Lok Sabha elections.

Hyderabad accounted for poor polling of around 45% on Thursday.

The voting percentage in the city was 55% in the 7 December 2018 Assembly elections, but now it came down to 45%, thanks to exodus of settler voters to Andhra Pradesh.

Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat recorded the lowest 39.49% polling, while the adjoining Secunderabad Lok Sabha seat polled 45% and the Malkajigiri Lok Sabha seat recorded 42.75% polling, a sharp 6-7% decline in polling compared to the Assembly elections.

The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation made arrangements for a higher voter turnout, but the efforts have gone in vain.

 

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