Kerala Assembly polls end on slower note, rival fronts claim victory

Kerala Assembly polls end on slower note, rival fronts claim victory

People stand in a queue to cast their vote at a Polling booth

Thiruvananthapuram, April 6 (IANS) Kerala, which saw voting in the Assembly elections on Tuesday begin on a very enthusiastic note and race to 50 per cent at the half-way mark, however, saw turnout losing steam subsequently, ending up at 73.58 per cent at close of polling at 7 p.m., as per preliminary estimates. The turnout might crawl up to 75 per cent once the final tally is ready. While the day opened on a sunny note, soon after lunch, there were showers, especially in central Kerala districts, which could have been one reason for the lower turnout. As per preliminary figures, Kozhikode district recorded the highest turnout of 77.9 per cent while Pathanamthitta came last of all the 14 districts with 68.09 per cent. In the 2016 Assembly polls, the poll percentage stood at 77.35 per cent. Polling was peaceful while four people collapsed and died during the voting. The fate of 957 candidates has been finally sealed, and now begins the long wait till the counting on May 2. The principal political fronts contesting the elections are the ruling CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Incidentally on polling day, it was the Sabarimala temple issue that turned out to be the most discussed topic and it has appeared to have brought some cheer for the UDF. However, the LDF was confident of setting a record by retaining power. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who cast his vote at his hometown in Kannur, said: "The writing on the wall was very evident, right from the time the campaign started, we could sense the mood of the people and the Left will retain power." Asked if the Sabarimala temple issue would snowball on the LDF, he dismissed the possibility. "It's not just Ayyappan alone, all Gods are supporting the Left," said Vijayan, who was accompanied by his wife Kamala Vijayan. He said there is no doubt on the outcome of the polls, which they are sure to win with a better margin than 2016. "We will close out the BJP, which opened their account in the 2016 polls, by winning one seat. I have full faith in the people and the people also have extended their full faith in the Left government. I travelled all across the state and I could sense the people's mood towards us," said Vijayan. Meanwhile down south, in Haripad in Alappuzha district, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, after casting his vote, said it would be a historic win for the Congress-led UDF. "All that we have raised against the most corrupt Left government has been fully accepted by the people. All the five years, it was only suffering for the people and even the floods that took place in 2018 were manmade. There was huge support for the campaign of Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and people will use the ballot to give a sound beating to the misrule of Vijayan," he said. Reacting to Vijayan's claim of Lord Ayyappan's support, Chennithala laughed, saying it is strange to hear of an atheist's sudden love for Ayyappan. "Vijayan will get the wrath of Ayyappan as he destroyed the sanctity of the famed Sabarimala temple," he claimed. State Congress President Mullapally Ramachandran was confident of the outcome and he said the UDF will score a "century" as people are badly waiting for a change in governance. Former Defence Minister A.K. Antony told the media at the state party headquarters here on Tuesday evening that the Left should be prepared for one of the most shocking verdicts. Meanwhile, state BJP President K.Surendran, who is contesting from two constituencies said this time it is a crucial election for them. "This is an election which will see the BJP strengthening its base in the state. A phenomenon is taking place like the 2016 polls, when the traditional rival fronts -- the Left and the Congress-led UDF are hand in glove in a few constituencies to oust us, but the people are going to help us," he said. Polling took place as per the strict Covid protocols and while in the 2016 Assembly polls, 21,498 polling booths were there, this time due to the Covid pandemic, the number of polling booths was increased to 40,771. The last hour of polling was kept for Covid positive patients (to be dressed in PPE kits) and among them to cast their votes were two candidates, both from Ernakulam district - Antony John and Tony Chemany. Vijayan's daughter, Veena Vijayan who tested positive on Tuesday, also cast her vote in the same booth where Vijayan had done early in the day. Her husband Mohammed Riyaz is a candidate of the CPI-M and is contesting from the Beypore constituency in Kozhikode and is supremely confident of winning. The state's total electorate comprised 1,41,62,025 women, 1,32,83,724 men and 290 transgender voters. A total of 59,292 Kerala Police personnel were joined in poll duty by 140 companies of the CISF, the CRPF and the BSF, which is by far the biggest deployment of central forces for any poll in the state. In the outgoing Assembly (2016 polls) the LDF had 91 seats, the UDF 47, the NDA one seat and there was one independent candidate.

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