Amaravati: Polling was underway for the by-election to the Atmakur Assembly seat on Thursday.
Voting began at all 279 polling stations in the constituency in the Nellore district at 7 a.m. amid tight security and will continue till 6 p.m.
A total of 2,13,327 voters comprising 1,07,367 women and 1,05,960 men are eligible to exercise their franchise in the constituency.
The election authorities have made elaborate arrangements. An official said 377 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were installed at the polling booths.
The covid-19 protocol was being followed during polling. Authorities have made arrangements for separate queues for women at all booths.
The Election Commission has deployed 1,409 polling personnel. More than 1,100 police personnel were deployed as part of the security arrangements to ensure peaceful and smooth balloting.
Nellore Superintendent of Police Vijaya Rao said that three-tier security is in place for 123 polling stations identified as sensitive.
The by-election was necessitated by the death of industries minister M. Goutham Reddy in February this year.
The ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) has fielded Goutham Reddy’s brother M. Vikram Reddy and he is the strong favourite.
A total of 14 candidates are in the fray. They include BJP’s G. Bharat Kumar, who is president of the Nellore district BJP unit.
The main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has not fielded the candidate in line with its tradition of not contesting a by-election where a family member of a deceased sitting legislator is seeking the public mandate.
Pawan Kalyan-led Jana Sena Party (JSP), an ally of BJP, is also staying away from the bypoll.
BJP is contesting the by-poll in tune with its principled stand not to encourage politics of inheritance by leaving the elections uncontested when an incumbent passes away.
BJP’s star campaigners Daggubati Purandeswari, G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, Y. Satyakumar, party’s state president Somu Veerraju and others campaigned for the party candidate.
YSRCP, which is confident of a massive win, had deployed some ministers and MLA for electioneering. The ruling party has devised a poll strategy for securing a majority of one lakh votes.
In the 2019 election, Goutham Reddy had defeated his nearest rival Bollineni Krishnayya of TDP by a margin of over 22,000 votes. The YSRCP candidate had also won the seat in 2014 with a majority of over 31,000 votes against his nearest rival G. M. Kanna Babu of TDP.