Supporters listen to an address by Telangana caretaker chief minister and TRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao’s in Nalgonda district. The TRS and BJP are contesting in all 119 seats, but the Congress party has fielded candidates in only 94 constituencies. Image Credit: PTI

Hyderabad: A high voltage, bitter and pugnacious election campaign, marked by abuses and insults, came to an end in Telangana on Wednesday with a question mark remaining on the possible winner.

As the loudspeakers fell silent, road shows, public meetings and whirlwind tours of the political bigwigs came to a full stop, officials got down to the serious business of arranging paraphernalia and making security arrangements to ensure free and fair polling on Friday.

An estimated 39 million voters will be eligible to decide the fate of 1,824 candidates in the fray for 119 seats of the legislative assembly. Elaborate security arrangements were being made at more than 32,700 polling booths.

Rajat Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer, said polling will start in all the constituencies at 7am and close at 4pm in 13 remote constituencies facing the threat of Maoists and at 5pm in the remaining constituencies.

In the massive drive against the misuse of money power in the elections, authorities have seized Rs1.11 billion, 380 million more than last time and Rs70 million worth liquor and gifts. “Money and mafia are playing a havoc in this election”, the CEO said.

Authorities have also ordered all the liquor outlets to shut ahead of the poll and warned that those who come drunk to polling stations will be jailed.

Most of the constituencies were witnessing three cornered contest between ruling Telangana Rashtra Samit (TRS) with tacit support of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and Congress-led People’s Front, the BJP also poured enormous resources and manpower to seek to expand its footprint in the state.

TRS and the BJP were contesting in all the 119 seats but Congress had fielded candidates in only 94 constituencies leaving 14 for the TDP and the remaining to the CPI and Telangana Jana Samiti. Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) was contesting in 8 seats, all in Hyderabad and supporting the TRS in other constituencies.

All the sides were proclaiming their victory in advance. “We are returning to power with at least 100 seats”, declared a combative TRS supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao, the star of TRS campaign. KCR who addressed about a hundred meetings over the last 20 days rounded up his hectic campaign in his own home constituency Gajwel where he was facing a tough challenge from the united opposition. “Vote for TRS which achieved Telangana state after 14 years of struggle and which worked for a Golden Telangana for the last four and a half years”, he said.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi who along with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam President N Chandrababu Naidu commandeered the campaign of the People’s Front was no less confident of the alliance wresting the power.

“The time has come for the people to end the family rule and corruption of KCR and send him back home”, Rahul declared in one of his final election rallies in the state.

Rahul’s mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi also addressed an election rally in the state recalling her party’s role in formation of Telangana state. She also issued a video appeal to the voters on the last day of the campaign urging them to vote for People’s Front for the sake of their future.

Chandrababu focused on the constituencies with sizeable population of Andhra migrants and sought the support for the alliance citing his own role in developing Hyderabad into an IT hub as the Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh. “I am here as a well-wisher of the people of Telangana. I want to see the state prosper and progress”, he said. “But KCR is threatening me”.

BJP also ran an unprecedented campaign with huge resources at its disposal. In a record of sorts entire top BJP leadership campaigned through the length and breadth of the state. On a single day the saffron party, trying to achieve a breakthrough, deployed as many as 5 helicopters to ferry its leaders from place to place.

“If we look at the atmosphere in Hyderabad, this election clearly belongs to the BJP”, declared Prime Minister Narendra Modi who addressed three rallies in the state. BJP President Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and several other top leaders also addressed a large number of election meetings.

MIM President Asaduddin Owaisi expressed confidence that the people would return KCR to power for his good work. He was confident that minorities would extend support to the TRS where MIM was not in the fray. “MIM will not only retain 7 seats but also win one more”.

The psephologists and analysts say there was a keen fight between the TRS and the People’s Front, while BJP was trying to increase its strength from the previously held 5 seats.

When KCR had dissolved the state assembly on September 6 last paving the way for early polls, it was expected to be a cake walk for him. But since the two major opposition parties Congress and TDP came together the challenge became tough. However many still say that TRS may scrape trough with a simple majority. It had won 63 seats in 2014.

The results will be declared on December 11.