Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 2: More than four million voters exercised their franchise on Monday in ballotting that was under way in the first phase for Kerala’s civic body polls, where the ruling UDF is pitted against the opposition LDF while the BJP too is hoping to make inroads.
More than 40 percent voters exercised their franchise till 1 p.m. — in six hours of polling, the office of the state election commissioner said. Polling, that began at 7 a.m., was slated to end at 5 p.m. While the voting process was so far peaceful, polling was stopped at a few booths due to technical snags. Minor skirmishes between rival groups were also reported from Kannur district, officials said.
The seven districts where polls are being held and the percentage of votes cast till 1 p.m. are: Thiruvananthapuram (33.33 percent), Kollam (36 percent), Idukki (45.5 percent), Kozhikode (43.33 percent), Kannur (42.66 percent), Wayanad (47 percent) and Kasargode (45 percent). As many as 10.1 million people are eligible to cast their votes to decide the political fate of 31,161 candidates in this phase.
The polls are being keenly contested between the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) and the opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF). The results of the civic polls are going to be path-breaking in the political history of the state, CPI-M politburo member Pinnarayi Vijayan told media persons after casting his vote.
“The Congress-led UDF will disintegrate once the results of the polls are out on November 7,” Vijayan said. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, however, brushed aside Vijayan’s comment and said: “For the past four-and-half years, Vijayan has been saying this… But all what happened was, it was their ally partner which left them and if some have left us, they are in dire straits now.”
Chandy is busy campaigning in districts which go to the second and final phase of polling on Thursday. Altogether, over 2.50 crore voters would exercise their franchise at 35,000 polling booths in the two-phased poll. In the initial hours, polling was slow in some areas. Heavy rain in the capital district on Monday saw a cold response from the electorate with just around nine percent turnout in the initial hour.
UDF convenor P.P. Thankachen expressed confidence that the outcome will be a feather in the cap for the Oommen Chandy government. The Congress-led UDF holds power in about 65 percent of the local bodies in the state. Former defence minister A.K. Antony said here on Monday that there is no alternative to the Congress-led UDF in Kerala, and added that it will emerge victorious in the polls to the state’s civic bodies.
“Elections mean a choice between various parties and today the scene is such that there is no alternative to the Congress-led UDF… I am supremely confident that the United Democratic Front (UDF) will register a thumping win,” Antony said after casting his vote. “With regard to the Left opposition here, they have been on a slide and the UDF is on a strong wicket because there has been a huge support from the youth and women voters,” Antony added.
State BJP president V. Muraleedharan said it would be the BJP which will make the biggest gains in the civic polls. In the outgoing local bodies, BJP has around 500 seats of the nearly 22,000 seats.