- Polling after an intense and vitriolic campaign
- The civic body election is crucial for TRS, BJP and AIMIM
- The BJP is trying to make inroads into Telangana
After more than a week of intense and vitriolic campaign, over 74 lakh eligible voters are set to take part today in the elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation or GHMC. Polling began at 7 AM.
The civic body election is a high-stakes battle for the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the BJP, which is trying to make inroads, and Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM.
This has been the most fiercely and bitterly fought municipal elections ever in Hyderabad with a high-octane campaign by the BJP that flew in national leaders - like Amit Shah, JP Nadda and Yogi Adityanath - hoping to convince Hyderabad that a change was needed.
Electoral issues have gone beyond roads, sanitation, water supply, street lights, drainage and basic civic infrastructure, to whether Hyderabad wants its name changed to Bhagyanagar, and also if Telangana needs a new ruling party. The BJP's Tejasvi Surya, the Bangalore South MP, made divisive remarks while taking on the TRS and the AIMIM. He was also charged for entering the iconic Osmania University without permission in his campaign for the city civic polls.
Last week, Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao sought to strike an emotional chord with the people, appealing to them to "save the city from divisive forces", hinting at the BJP which has staked much in the city elections.
Mr Owaisi and Telangana minister KT Rama Rao were among the early voters this morning. Voting will continue till 6 PM.
A total of 1,122 candidates are contesting the civic body election across 150 divisions, spread over four districts. In the last municipal elections in February 2016, the ruling TRS had won 99 seats, Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM won 44, the BJP won four, the Congress won two and the Telugu Desam Party managed to get one.
Over the last decade, the polling percentage has been traditionally lower in the civic body elections, as compared to the state election, with hardly 45 per cent voter turnout. The voting percentage in 2009 was 43 per cent; it was 46 per cent in 2016.
Heavy security has been deployed at 9,101 polling stations, with the state police indicating that they have information of some elements trying to disturb peace and incite trouble.
Over 50,000 police personnel are on the ground amid multiple rumours of cash and liquor distribution. The election campaigning ended on Sunday at 6 pm.
Precautions to check the spread of the highly infectious Covid have been put in place, state Election Commissioner C Parthasarathy said. Wearing of masks is compulsory at the polling stations.
All polling booths have been disinfected and sanitisers have been provided at every booth.
The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) area has 63 containment zones, as per the official data.
Across 1,700 polling stations, only 800-1,000 voters are allowed instead of the earlier limit of 1,400.
Ballot papers are being used instead of the EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines). Electors photo identity or one of 18 alternative photo identity can be shown. Elderly voters and women with children need not wait in queues. There's no provision for online voting though postal ballots have been allowed.
Nearly 1.5 lakh people involved in ground support. Overall, 2,700 polling stations have been identified as "sensitive", including 257 in "critical" category, and 1,004 are marked "hypersensitive".
The GHMC was formed in April 2007 by merging 12 municipalities and eight gram panchayats with Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH). Four districts fall within GHMC limits, including Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Medchal-Malkajgiri and Sangareddy.