HYDERABAD : Five years after their split, the two Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (AP) voted separately for the first time. The stakes are higher in Andhra Pradesh, as assembly elections will also be held simultaneously, while in Telangana the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi is in a strong position.

However, since 2014, when the Telangana was created out of Andhra Pradesh, both states have come a long way. What voters want in Telangana now is no longer a new state, as they did in 2014.

“Last time I voted for the BJP because I wanted to give them a chance, but I was not happy with what they did, especially with their religious agenda. I like the candidate this time, but I won’t vote for the BJP on principle, and I’ll vote a non-BJP and non-Congress party," said Dr. Meghana Reddy, 28, a voter from Hyderabad.

Reddy feels TRS supremo K. Chandrasekhar Rao is on a “power trip", but will nonetheless vote for that party. “There is power and electricity available now, unlike some years ago. So work has been done," she said.

Many like her from Hyderabad and other districts think that Rao has emerged as a leader who can possibly go on to the national stage as well.

“In 2014, it was an emotional time for us, but the state is doing good now. I was not happy with demonetization in 2016, so I am definitely not voting for BJP," said K. Sai Kiran, 31, a voter from the Secunderabad parliamentary seat in Telangana, which was the only constituency the BJP won in the state in 2014. The state has 17 Lok Sabha seats, of which the TRS held 14 (including defections).

About 260km away in Guntur (AP), Arvind Chennupati, 23, had a bigger task at hand, as he had to vote for an assembly and Lok Sabha candidate at the same time. AP, with 175 assembly and 25 parliamentary seats, has witnessed a bitter fight between the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and main opposition YSR Congress Party. After a long two-and-a-half hour wait, Arvind was finally able to cast his vote. “Bifurcation happened in 2014, and people had already seen the TDP’s rule earlier with regard to building the IT sector in Hyderabad. Since it was a new state, there was some willingness to bet on chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu again instead of Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP. But Naidu’s performance has not been up to mark. There hasn’t been much of job creation either," stated Chennupati. In Telangana, till 5pm on Thursday, voting percentage was nearly 61% and is likely to go a little higher, after final counting which will be done by Friday. Khaleda Rahman, 45, a voter from the Hyderabad parliamentary seat left home early to vote. “I know that the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen will win the seat, but I feel that this time there are bigger issues, like communalism," said Rahman, who is a school teacher at a private school in the city.

As a teacher, she said that it was hard for her to read about a young Muslim boy (Junaid Khan) getting stabbed to death (in a train) last year for no fault of his. “This is the state of India today. I don’t want that to happen ever again. So my vote is going to the Congress, just to keep the BJP out. Although I feel that the TRS in Telangana has not done so bad," Rahman added. Among the Lok Sabha seats in Telangana and AP, the Nizamabad seat in Telangana is being closely watched as it has no fewer than 185 contestants. The ruling party’s sitting MP K. Kavitha, who is also the chief minister’s daughter, is seeking re-election from the seat.

Most of the independent candidates in Nizamabad district are turmeric and jowar farmers, who are contesting in protest against the agricultural policies of the state government and the centre, with a demand for higher minimum support price.

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