Election Commission officials in Hyderabad went into emergency mode on Friday to procure jumbo-sized ballot papers and boxes as EVMs cannot be used in Nizamabad Parliamentary constituency due to the high number of candidates.
Nizamabad is represented by Telangana Rashtra Samiti’s K Kavitha, daughter of CM K Chandrashekar Rao. There are 185 candidates contesting from Nizamabad, including 175 angry turmeric farmers, who filed their nominations to draw attention to their plight as prices of turmeric have dropped to lowest in decades.
Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar said that as EVMs can only accommodate 64 names (4 EVMs linked together) including NOTA, they have no other option but to hold the polls using ballot papers.
“We have to get over 15 lakh jumbo-sized ballot papers printed in the next 10 days and procure hundreds of ballot boxes. Discussions are on with various printers to get them printed on an emergency basis, and ballot boxes are being procured from other districts and neighbouring states. We also have to allot symbols to all the independent candidates. It may take a lot of time,’’ an official said.
This is the first time since 1996 that ballot papers are being used in the state. A record number of 245 nominations were filed in Nizamabad, and apart from the TRS, Congress, BJP and Left candidates, all others were farmers.
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TRS leaders tried to cajole the farmers to withdraw, with promises and assurances of taking care of their situation. However, after the deadline for the withdrawal of nominations ended Thursday, most of the farmers refused to withdraw, and there are 185 candidates in the fray, forcing the EC to go for ballot papers.
The Congress has fielded former MP Madhu Yashki Goud while BJP’s Dharmapuri Arvind is in the fray.
“About 175 turmeric farmers are contesting as Independents. This is to draw the nation’s attention to the plight of farmers who are not even getting minimum prices for their crop, and the government is doing nothing about it. More than 500 farmers were supposed to file their nominations but TRS leaders arm-twisted them and forced them not to file their nominations,” said farmer cooperative leader E Rajareddi.
Kavitha said that Congress and BJP instigated the farmers against her. “Voters of Nizamabad will teach them a lesson,” she said Friday.
Turmeric farmers of Nizamabad have been protesting for several months, demanding that the government assure a minimum of Rs 9000 per quintal against the Rs 4,500 that is being offered now.
“We spend up to Rs 1.50 lakhs on each acre to grow turmeric; about Rs 7,500 per quintal. How can we accept only Rs 4,500 per quintal? We are suffering immense loses,” S Anvesh Reddy who is leading the protests said. Anvesh Reddy is chairman of Telangana Kisan Congress.
“We also want a National Turmeric Board to be set up which will ensure MSP and root out middlemen. In 2014, Kavitha had assured that the Board would be set up. She moved a Private Member’s Bill called Turmeric Board Bill in 2017 but it was never passed. Thousands of farmers, mostly from Bodhan, Balakonda and Armoor are affected,” he said.