Voting commenced amidst extensive preparations across all 119 Assembly constituencies in Telangana on Thursday morning, with polling stations open from 7 am to 6 pm.
A total of 2,290 candidates from 109 national and regional parties, including 221 women and one transgender, are contesting for the mandate of 3.17 crore voters. Notably, 103 legislators are seeking re-election, with a majority from the ruling Bharat Rasthra Samithi (BRS).
Chief Electoral Officer Vikas Raj stated that around 12,000 critical polling stations have been identified, warranting additional forces, with over 2.5 lakh staff engaged in poll duties.
Home voting for persons with disabilities and voters above 80 years, a first in Telangana, is facilitated. Approximately 27,600 voters availed the home-voting service, while 1,000 others registered for the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System.
"We have also identified about 12,000 critical polling stations for which we have arranged the deployment of additional forces. Apart from central forces, there will also be micro-observers to ensure free and fair polling in the state," said Vikas Raj. He emphasized the arrangements made for disabled voters, including volunteers at each polling station and provisions for visually and hearing-impaired individuals.
The ruling BRS, eyeing a third term, faces challenges from the Congress and BJP. Key contenders include Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, K T Rama Rao, A Revanth Reddy, Bandi Sanjay Kumar, and D Arvind. If KCR secures another term, it would mark the first instance of a Chief Minister from a Southern state serving three consecutive terms.
The electoral battleground features interesting contests, such as KCR facing opposition in both Gajwel and Kamareddy, while BJP and Congress leaders Etela Rajender and Revanth Reddy contest from two seats each. Notable seats include Korutla, where BJP's Arvind Dharmapuri challenges BRS's Kalvakuntla Sanjay, and Maheshwaram, where BRS's Patlolla Sabitha Indra Reddy competes against Congress and BJP candidates.
The political narrative is shaped by promises and accusations. The BRS defends its 10-year performance, the Congress seeks support for its first government, and the BJP pledges to end perceived misrule and corruption. The BJP's promises include a Chief Minister from the Backward Class community, implementation of the Uniform Civil Code, and revisions in reservation policies.
The Congress, buoyed by Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra and Karnataka assembly poll victory, promises financial assistance, affordable LPG cylinders, free bus travel for women, and other guarantees. Meanwhile, the BRS emphasizes the state's economic growth and development under its governance.
With influential leaders from all major parties campaigning vigorously, the outcome of the elections will be closely watched. In the 2018 polls, BRS secured a significant victory with 88 out of 119 seats and a 47.4% vote share, while the Congress secured 19 seats. The political landscape in Telangana is set for a potential shift as voters cast their ballots in this closely contested electoral battle.