Realizing fully well that this election, they literally hold the key to the city’s future, residents living in limits of the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation lined up in front of polling booths on Wednesday. Their eagerness was partly to do with the fact that the GVMC was going to the polls after over a decade. Voters realized that all eyes are on three major Corporations – Guntur, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam – as the outcome in these civic bodies will be seen as a virtual referendum on the contentious three-capital decision of the YSRCP Government.
A defeat, particularly in Vijayawada and Guntur, for the YSRCP will be seen as a clear rejection of its decision to relocate the capital city to Visakhapatnam. A victory in the port city on the other hand will enable the TDP to proclaim that the people of Visakhapatnam want no change in the state capital.
Though polling began on a dull pace, the final turnout reached around 60 percent of the 17.26 lakh total registered voters in GVMC limits. This is a jump of about 10 percent from previous elections and the high percentage of polling may set up a tight contest between the TDP and YSRCP. The eagerness to cast ballots was higher among senior citizens who turned up in large numbers soon after polling began at 7 am. ” In cities, the civic body plays a key role. So all should exercise their franchise,” said NM Rao, a resident of Madhurawada. Some areas, mostly slums, Appughar and Peda Jalaripeta, witnessed long queues by 8 am itself.
With the issue of privatization of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) raging, all polling stations around Gajuwaka and VSP were notified as sensitive and hyper-sensitive. In general, polling was peaceful across all 98 wards in GVMC and in the 22 wards in Yelamanchili and 28 in Narsipatnam municipalities.
Some minor tensions, however, prevailed in the Andhra University. Local TDP MLA complained of mischief and stormed the booth with his supporters. In view of Covid, the district administration had taken all precautions at the polling booth as per the protocol. At every polling station, two to three counters manned by Aasha workers with sanitizers and hand-held thermal scanners were placed. “All voters entering the booth have to pass through our counters,” said an Aasha worker at a polling station in Muralinagar.
In many polling stations, police personnel and volunteers were seen helping senior citizens and differently-challenged voters at the polling stations. In some polling booths, people maintained covid-19 protocol and at the remaining booths, people were seen walking in without wearing masks. Both the police and the health workers were seen insisting that they wear it. However, social distancing norms were not practiced at most of the polling stations.