Polling underway in AP's Badvel constituency

Voting was underway for the by-election to the Badvel Assembly seat in Andhra Pradesh on Saturday amid elaborate security arrangements.

Voters began casting their ballots at 7 a.m. through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) at 281 polling stations, of which 148 have been identified as critical, according to poll officials.

The Kadapa Superintendent of Police said that over 2,000 police personnel, including central armed forces, have been deployed.

A total 2,16,139 voters, including 1,07,340 women and two transgenders are eligible to cast their votes.

A total of 16 candidates are in the fray in the bypoll, caused by the death of sitting MLA G. Venkatasubbaiah of the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP).

The constituency, reserved for Scheduled Castes, is located in Kadapa, the home district of Chief Minister Y S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. It is one of the Assembly segments of Kadapa Lok Sabha seat being held by YSR family for over three decades.

The YSRCP has fielded his wife Dasari Sudha, who is locked in a three-cornered contest against Congress party's M. Kamalamma and the BJP's P. Suresh.

The main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) announced not to contest the by-election in line with its tradition of supporting the family members of the deceased MLA.

Jana Sena of actor politician Pawan Kalyan is backing its ally BJP, though he had initially announced that he will not field a candidate to facilitate victory of Ventakasubbaiah's widow.

The constituency saw intensive campaigning by the BJP led by its state chief Somu Veera Raju. BJP national secretary incharge of Andhra Pradesh Sunil Deodhar and some Union Ministers addressed election rallies and conducted roadshows. They targetted the YSRCP for backwardness in Badvel and highlighted issues like lack of adequate drinking water and bad condition of roads.

The Chief Minister did not campaign for his party candidate but wrote a letter to people of Badvel seeking their support. A group of state Ministers led by Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy participated in the campaign, highlighting the welfare schemes of the YSRCP government.

The ruling party appears to have an edge thanks to the strong support it enjoys in the region as well as the sympathy factor.

In 2019, the YSRCP stormed to power winning 151 seats in the 175-member Assembly. The BJP drew a blank while TDP secured 23 seats. Jana Sena had bagged a seat.

Kamalamma, a former government teacher, was elected from Badvel on a Congress ticket in 2009.

In the 2014 elections, the Congress was wiped out due to public anger over bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to create Telangana State. The YSRCP had wrested Badvel from Congress, whose candidate polled just 1,524 votes (0.98 per cent).

Venkatasubbaiah of YSRCP was elected in 2019 defeating his nearest rival Obulapuram Rajasekhar of TDP with a margin of 44,734 votes.

In 2019 Kamalamma again contested on Congress ticket but garnered only 2,337 votes (1.49 per cent). BJP candidate T. Jayaramulu had finished seventh, securing only 735 votes (0.47 per cent).

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