Thiruvananthapuram/ New Delhi: The Election Commission said on Monday that Kerala recorded over 71 per cent polling while the percentage was over 69 per cent for Tamil Nadu and above 81 per cent for Puducherry in the assembly polls.
Addressing a press conference here, Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha said there were long queues at some polling stations in Kerala at the end of polling at 6 pm. All those in line at that time would be allowed to vote.
“Kerala recorded polling of 71 per cent till 6pm. The percentage is expected to go up,” he said Around 26 million people were eligible to vote for the 140-member Assembly.
Congress-led ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) headed opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) are in a neck and neck electoral fight in the state where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is striving hard to make a maiden entry into the assembly. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Opposition leader and 93-year-old CPI-M veteran V. S.Achuthanandan, CPI(M) politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan, 83-year-old Kerala Congress(M) supremo and former finance minister K. M.Mani were among the 1,203 candidates in the electoral arena.
For Chandy, this was the 11th consecutive straight contest from Puthupally, while for Mani, it was the 13th stint from Pala. Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan, said to be LDF’S chief ministerial candidates, contested from Malampuzha and Dharmadam respectively. Kerala has a total electorate of 26,106,422, of which female voters number 13,508,693 and males 12,510, 589.
There are two members of third gender in the electoral rolls. Except for stray incidents of violence, no major incidents were reported from any part of the state, police said. Over 52,000 police personnel were stationed across Kerala as part of security.
Special security arrangements including web casting, were made in 3,176 polling stations identified as ‘sensitive, critical and vulnerable’. Due to rains in some parts of Kerala, polling which was slow in the initial hours, picked up in the afternoon touching 71.7 per cent at close. Total voter turnout in the 2011 state assembly polls was 75.11 per cent.
People were seen queueing up in various booths in the state, much before polling began on Monday morning, especially in some coastal areas.
In a related incident, a 70-year-old voter, who was standing in a booth at Perambra in Kozhikode, collapsed and died before casting his vote. Nuns and priests, including Cardinal Mar George Alancherry of Syro Malabar church and Latin catholic Major Archbishop Soosai Pakiam were among those who voted. Some incidents of malfunctioning of voting machines in certain booths were also reported.
But they were rectified immediately and polling was not affected.
In a first, Kerala Governor Justice (Retd) P. Sathasivam and his wife cast their votes in a booth here. This is the first time a state governor has exercised his franchise in Kerala.
Speaking to reporters, Justice Sathasivam said “as a first citizen (of the state), I request all citizens to come and vote. This is my humble request”, he said.
CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and LDF’s chief ministerial aspirant Pinarayi Vijayan, senior Congress leader A. K. Antony, IUML leader and Industries Minister P. K. Kunhaikutty, BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP and actor Suresh Gopi and BJP State President Kummanom Rajasekharan were among those who cast their votes in the early hours.
LDF and UDF leaders expressed confidence of riding to power, while BJP said they would come out with a sterling performance.
However, leaders of both fronts were unanimous that BJP would not open its account in Kerala where the party had put up a stiff fight this time with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing five public meetings.
The turn out of voters in assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry on Monday is less than the 2011 polls, the Election Commission said.
However, the percentage is likely to go up as the figures were not final.
In Tamil Nadu, where the elections went off peacefully, 69.19 per cent of the 5.82 crore voters turned out to cast vote. The final percentage is yet to come up as the figures were received by the poll panel here at 5pm, Sinha told reporters here. He said that in 2011 assembly polls, the figures were 78.12 per cent and 73.85 per cent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
He said that despite rains lashing 8 districts of the state, voters turned out in large numbers. The rain situation had later in the day improved, he said.
The Election Commission said it was for the first time that it deferred polls in two Tamil Nadu constituencies following evidence of use of money power.
“This is for the time in the history that polls were deferred due to use of money power. Such a step is taken usually when there are reports of booth capturing or evidence of muscle power,” Sinha told reporters.
Using powers vested in it under Article 324 of the Constitution, the Election Commission had last night decided to defer holding of Assembly elections to the Thanjavur constituency in Tamil Nadu following evidence of large-scale distribution of money to the voters. On Saturday night, it had taken a similar decision to postpone polls for the Aravakurichi constituency in the state.
As per the Commission order, polling for the two Assembly constituencies, which was scheduled to be held on Monday, will now take place on May 23. The counting will take place on May 25 instead of May 19.
The EC said it has no power to “indefinitely” countermand an election.
Therefore, it defers polls so that “the vitiating effect of the money power created by the distribution of money and gift items to the electors of the constituency loses its intensity and a more congenial atmosphere conducive to the conduct of free and fair election is created.”
Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry went for assembly polls in a single phase on Monday. The counting will take place on May 19.