After Uttar Pradesh,it is now Andhra Pradeshs turn to cover statues. Ahead of the June 12 bypolls in 18 Assembly constituencies and one parliamentary constituency,the Election Commission has ordered the covering of over 2,500 statues of political leaders,mainly those of Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and Telugu Desam Party founder N T Rama Rao.
There are at least 1,600 statues of YSR alone,unveiled by his son Jagan Mohan Reddy who was on a statue inauguration spree till now. There approximately 700 statues of NTR,mostly in the coastal districts. The statues within 200 metres of polling stations would be covered. YSR Congress Party and TDP are locked in tough battles in many of the Assembly constituencies that are going to polls.
The EC has put a stop to unveiling of new statues. At least 100 statues of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi will also be covered.
The Congress,TDP and YSR Congress have lodged complaints against each other with the EC over statues and violation of poll code. The TDP and Congress have alleged that the statues of YSR,which are yet to be unveiled,are being inaugurated in a hurry by Jagan Mohan. The statues are covered once Jagan Mohan leaves the area. The TDP has alleged that YSR Congress is distributing Sakshi,Telugu daily brought out by Jagan Mohans company,free of cost in areas,where he is scheduled to campaign.
The EC has also sought videos of an election speech made by Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy in Tirupati where he criticised Jagan Mohan for hurting the sentiments of Hindus by not signing a declaration when he visited Tirumala temple last week. Chief Electoral Officer Bhanwar Lal said that he sought videos of the election speech to find out if the CM used religion to make a point.
The EC also examined the footage of TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu,who,too,raised the issue,but desisted from making any religious comment.
The EC has sought increased vigilance at airports of Vijayawada,Visakhapatnam,Kadapa and Tirupati after reports that large amounts of cash have been brought in through airports to be used during campaigns. Police have so far seized Rs 7 crore cash from candidates,their supporters and party workers in the 18 Assembly constituencies and Nellore parliamentary constituency. The EC has sought 13,000 paramilitary personnel to conduct the polls.