Police personnel on poll duty wait to cast their postal ballots for Rajasthan Assembly elections, in Jodhpur, Dec 2, 2018. Image Credit: PTI

Hyderabad: The stage was set for state assembly elections in Telangana on Friday with the Election Commission making unprecedented security arrangements to ensure free and fair polling at 32,815 polling stations across the state.

State director general of police Mahinder Reddy said that about 90,000 personnel were deployed as part of the security arrangements. They include 50,000 personnel of the state police, 20,000 members of the central para military forces and 20,000 policemen from other states. Apart from providing material and security to polling personnel, police and paramilitary will also undertake patrolling and conduct flag-marches in sensitive areas and will also be responsible of safeguarding EVMs during transportation and at strongrooms where they will be kept till the day of counting.

Special focus was on the 13 sensitive constituencies bordering Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh states which face threat of violence and disruption from the Maoists.

For the first time electronic voting machines along with the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPATs) will be used in all polling stations. Webcasting was also arranged for close monitoring of proceedings in polling stations.

While in 2014 in the first election of Telangana, 72 per cent of the electorate exercised their franchise, election authorities have undertaken extensive publicity campaign to increase the voting percentage this time. Specially in Hyderabad where the percentage was at a low of around 50 per cent, authorities were using social media to provide information and a roadmap to citizens about their respective polling stations.

All major political parties, after weeks of intense campaigning, are now focusing on poll management through booth level committees to mobilise their supporters to get out of their homes on Friday and vote.

For the first time the election commission is providing voter slips with photographs to registered voters well in advance. The process was still on in some areas.

While all political parties remain on edge, anxiously awaiting the verdict of the people, Chief Minister K Chandrasekha Rao will perhaps be under the highest pressure to see if his gamble of going for early polls pays.

In the normal course, assembly elections in the youngest state of India should have been held in May along with the Lok Sabha polls, but KCR decided to advance it by a few months and dissolved the House on September 6 last.

While the people’s judgement will be known on December 11 when the EVMs would be opened, guessing game was on about the possible outcome.

The contest which started with the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti being seen as the favourite, gradually turned into a close fight after the two major opposition parties Congress and Telugu Desam formed an unprecedented alliance roping in some smaller parties too.

The ruling TRS and its main rival the Congress-led People’s Front were both claiming they will emerge winners in this battle. Even the BJP was hoping for a miracle.

The latest assessments and claims by analysts suggest TRS was still holding an edge. “It could be a 60-40 game in favour of TRS because of the welfare schemes and personal appeal of KCR”, one analyst said.

Former Congress MP-turned-amateur-psephologist L Rajagopal also created a stir by claiming that according to his survey the Congress-led People’s Front will emerge a winner. “Not joining hands with TDP despite the latter’s offer was a grave mistake of KCR,” Rajagopal asserted.

However K Taraka Rama Rao, a minister and son of caretaker Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, rejected Rajagopal’s claim and said he had manipulated his figures under pressure of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu. “Rajagopal is playing mind games”, KTR alleged.