Polling was underway peacefully in seven urban local bodies in Telangana on Friday amid elaborate arrangements to prevent spread of Covid-19 cases.
On the direction of Telangana High Court, State Election Commission (SEC) took various measures to ensure strict adherence to Covid-19 guidelines during the polling.
Voters lined up since morning to cast their votes in Greater Warangal and Khammam municipal corporations and five municipalities – Siddipet, Jadcherla, Atchampet Kothur and Nakrekal.
Polling was also being held for the by-elections to four wards in four municipalities and one ward in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).
The polling which began at 7 a.m. will continue till 5 p.m.
According to SEC, 13.37 per cent voters cast their votes in the first two hours in seven ULBs. Kothur municipality recorded highest turnout of 19.22 per cent while Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation and Achampet municipality saw 11 per cent polling.
A total of 11,59,112 voters including 5,84,963 women are eligible to cast their votes in these elections.
As many as 1,307 candidates including 480 independents are in the fray in two corporations and five municipalities. Fourteen candidates are testing their political fortunes in four wards while five candidates are in fray in Lingojiguda ward in GHMC.
The poll authorities have set up 1,539 polling stations and deployed 9,809 polling personnel for smooth conduct of elections.
On the direction of high court to ensure that the elections do not lead to further spread of Covid-19, State Election Commissioner C. Parthasarathi reviewed the poll arrangements on Thursday with district collectors, police commissioners, SPs, district medical and health officers and municipal commissioners.
He instructed them to monitor the elections closely following the guidelines issued by the SEC in view of the Covid-19 and to conduct elections in safe and peaceful manner.
Wearing of face mask has been made compulsory to cast the votes. The authorities also made arrangements to ensure social distancing in the queues outside polling stations. Sanitizers have been made available at the entry of polling stations.
To ensure compliance of Covid-19 protocol, the authorities have procured 28,810 masks (two masks per person), 14,505 face shields, 22,910 hand gloves (two pairs per person, 18,455 bottles of hand sanitizer and 22,230 rings marked for queues of voters at polling stations indicating social distancing.
Sanitisation of polling booths, use of Arogyasethu app by all persons involved in elections, distribution of kits containing one mask, sanitizer and face shield to every polling personnel are among the other guidelines being followed.
The SEC has gone ahead with the conduct of the elections despite demands by the opposition parties to postpone them in view of the surge in Covid cases.
Opposition Congress and BJP have even sought intervention by Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan to stop the poll process as this could further spread the pandemic.
However, the SEC assured that it is taking all necessary measures to check the spread of Covid during the polling.
The high court on Thursday pulled up SEC for going ahead with the elections despite the second wave of Covid. It asked the poll panel what was the need to hold elections despite the massive surge in Covid cases in the state.
“How can the SEC justify conducting the polls when people are losing lives to Covid?” asked a bench of Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy.
The court observed that SEC could have exercised its powers to defer the polls.