Thiruvananthapuram: A total of 77.68 per cent of 2.61 crore voters Tuesday exercised their franchise to elect 20 Lok Sabha members from Kerala, where the ruling LDF and the opposition UDF fought tooth and nail to garner maximum seats.
While voting in a few polling booths got delayed, the final figures is expected later and it could well touch 77 per cent, up from 73.89 per cent in 2014, officials had said.
Based on reports, election officials have sought a report from district authorities on the death of 10 voters, most of who collapsed either at polling booths or while travelling to vote, while another person collapsed soon after returning from casting his vote.
This increased turnout, cutting across constituencies, brought a lot of cheer to the all three political fronts with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, of the ruling Left Democratic Front, saying it “will go a long way in strengthening democracy”.
While voting formally ended at 6 p.m., election authorities had said all those who enter the polling station compound before that time will be allowed to cast their votes and at several places, voting continued even after the official close of time.
Roy Mathew, a senior analyst, said that the increased turnout shows that there is “some sort of a wave”.
“But one thing which is beyond predicting at this moment is which of the three fronts is going to benefit. While the Congress-led UDF will say this is a response to the arrival of (Congress chief) Rahul Gandhi to contest from Wayanad, the CPI-M might say this is a thumbs-up to the three year good governance of Vijayan and the BJP might attribute it to the Sabarimala issue and of Modi governance. The best thing is to wait till votes are counted, when it will be very clear,” he said.
Leader of Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala of the Congress, said that the signs are favourable for them.
In Wayanad, from where Gandhi is contesting, the turnout was an impressive 79 per cent so far against 73.23 per cent in 2014. But it was Kannur where the highest turnout (80 per cent) was recorded.
According to the poll officials, Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) failed to function in some booths and were subsequently replaced. Many leaders, including Vijayan, expressed their concern over the faulty voting machines.
However, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Tikka Ram Meena clarified that he had already informed everyone that if it rained a night before voting, the machines might take a while to be ready due to the humidity. He said it only happened at a few places and the glitches were rectified.
Another top election official blamed TV channels for “blowing up” the issue.
“If you compare the technical snags that has taken place in Kerala in voting as compared to the rest of the country, Kerala is much ahead and the percentage of error is around one per cent only , which is the lowest in the country,” said the official.
Most top leaders and film stars cast their votes in the morning session.
Governor P Sathasivam and his wife cast their votes in Thiruvananthapuram.
Chief Minister Vijayan, who was seen waiting in a queue with his family outside a booth in Kannur, said the fight this time was between the Left and the Congress-led UDF and the BJP “will not finish second, but third in all the constituencies”.
After casting his vote in Kozhikode, state BJP President P S Sreedharan Pillai claimed that a few surprises would spring up when the results are announced. The BJP is placing high hopes in Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur as well as Palakkad.
Superstar Mammootty, who cast his vote in Kochi, encouraged the people to use their right to vote.
Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy cast his vote at his hometown Puthupally in Kottayam.
“The United Democratic Front (UDF) will do very well as this time it’s going to be a ‘vote against Modi in the Centre and against Vijayan in the state’,” he said.
Mocking Chandy’s forecasts, CPI-M state Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said: “His predictions in earlier elections have all fallen flat. Just wait and watch, the Left will better its 2014 performance in the state.”
Indian Union Muslim League’s (IUML) state chief Hyderali Shihab Thangal, whose party s the UDF’s second-biggest constituent, said: “Both our candidates, Kunhalikutty and E T Mohammed Basheer, as well as Rahul Gandhi, will win with record margins. The Congress-led UDF will score an excellent victory.”
A record 227 candidates are trying their luck for Kerala’s 20 Lok Sabha seats.
A total of 2,61,51,534 voters, including 1,34,66,521 women, 1,26,84,839 men and 174 belonging to the ‘other’ gender, were eligible to exercise their franchise in 24,970 polling stations spread across 14 districts.