As Tamil Nadu and Puducherry went into polling on Monday, nearly 15 million people voted in the first four hours to pick a new Tamil Nadu assembly while Puducherry recorded 81.94 per cent voting till about 4 pm to elect the 30-member assembly.
In Tamil Nadu, the voter turnout touched 69.19 percent at 3 pm, Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Lakhoni said.
Salem and Namakkal registered high voter turnout with long queues seen in both towns and polling was picking up pace in Thanjavur and Dindigul which had witnessed showers in the morning, forcing voters to stay indoors.
Lakhoni, however, indicated that the polling hours may not be extended as sought by political parties including DMK and AIADMK, as rains had subsided but assured that all voters who turn up before 6 pm at the booths will be allowed to cast their votes.
The voting process will not end till the last voter who makes it to the booth before 6 pm casts the vote. Such voters will be given tokens to ensure they voted.
The polling was largely peaceful and no major incidents of violence had been reported, he said.
Three villages in Thoothukudi, Kancheepuram and Viridunagar had boycotted the polls, but central observers and local officials were holding talks with them, Lakhoni said, adding he was confident that the voters will cast their votes.
Leaders of major political parties were among the early voters.
Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa , however, did not make the usual claims about the electoral outcome.
"In two days time, the people's verdict will be known," she said after voting.
DMK chief and former chief minister M Karunanidhi, his son and party treasurer M.K. Stalin and state BJP leader Tamilisai Soundararajan voted in Chennai. Congress leader P. Chidambaram voted in Sivaganga district.
Speaking to reporters, Karunanidhi said the DMK-Congress combine was poised to win and form the next government.
Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and some places in southern districts saw rains, which in turn slowed down the voting.
In Chennai, voting was progressing briskly, officials said. Actors Kamal Hassan, Rajinikanth, Ajith, Sundar. C and Kushboo voted in the city.
Polling in 232 of the 234 assembly constituencies began at 7 am and ended at 6 pm.
Elections in Aravakurichi and Thanjavur, deferred following allegations of bribing of voters, will be held on 23 May and counting of votes on 25 May.
In the 232 constituencies, 3,728 candidates are in the fray.
The ruling AIADMK is aligned with some smaller parties. The DMK has aligned with the Congress, two Muslim parties and some smaller outfits.
The third front, led by the DMDK, comprises the CPI-M, CPI, VCK, TMC and MDMK.
The PMK is contesting alone while the BJP has aligned with a few smaller parties.
Meanwhile, after a sluggish start in Puducherry with just over 10 percent turnout being seen in the first two hours after polling centres opened at 7 am, the voting picked up pace in the day
There are over 9.4 lakh voters in Puducherry, and a total of 344 candidates are in the fray.
In the 2011 assembly elections, the polling percentage was 85.52 percent out of over 8.10 lakh voters.
The main fight in Puducherry is between the Congress-DMK combine and the ruling All India NR Congress (AINRC), while the AIADMK, the ruling party in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, is going it alone.
Rains in Puducherry did not affect polling.
With inputs from agencies.
Published Date: May 16, 2016 18:12 PM | Updated Date: May 16, 2016 20:06 PM