Kerala Election 2021 sees over 73% polling till 7 pm; CPM-BJP workers clash, Sabarimala issue flares up
Tempers ran high at Kattayikonam in the Kazhakootam constituency, as CPM and BJP workers clashed leaving four from the saffron party injured; three from CPM have been arrested
Kerala witnessed over 73 percent turnout amid sporadic incidents of violence in the Assembly election for 140 seats held in a highly polarised environment amidst restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tempers ran high at Kattayikonam in the Kazhakootam constituencies as CPM and BJP workers clashed.
Two voters including a woman standing in the queue in Aranmula in Pathanamthitta and Chavittuavary in Kottayam collapsed and died.
The election began at 7 am and involved over two lakh polling officers across 40,771 polling stations in the state. Tuesday's polls saw 957 candidates contesting for 140 seats in the southern state.
Some of the high-profile candidates in the fray are incumbent Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan as well as 11 of his cabinet colleagues.
The result will be declared on 2 May.
Vijayan (Dharmadam), Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Ramesh Chennithala (Haripad), senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy (Puthupally), BJP state president, K Surendran (Konni and Manjeswaram) and E Sreedharan (Palakkad) were among those who voted on Tuesday.
Malayalam superstar Mammooty, actors Suresh Gopi, Fahad Fasil and Dileep were among the early voters.
Keeping the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, an additional one hour from 6 pm to 7 pm was set aside for COVID-19 patients and those under isolation. The state witnessed massive turnout till afternoon but incessant rain in central Kerala reduced the footfall later.
At least 73.58 percent of the total 2.74 crore voters exercised their franchise for the state Assembly elections according to a preliminary assessment when polling drew to a close at 7 pm in Kerala on Tuesday, the Election Commission of India said.
The 2016 Assembly elections saw 77.53 percent voter turnout, while the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 saw a participation of 77.84 percent electors.
The ECI said 73.69 percent of male voters, 73.48 percent of female voters and 37.37 percent of transgender voters exercised their franchise as per the preliminary assessment till 6.55 pm.
A polling officer at Thalavady in Kuttanad's Alappuzha district failed to turn up for poll duty on Monday evening following which another official had to be deployed, Election Commission sources said.
Police said they had received a man missing case and on an investigation, it was found that the officer was at his residence itself and had reportedly "overslept".
The state had witnessed a fierce campaign in the run-up to the polls by the ruling CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the BJP-led NDA.
Sabarimala issue re-emerges on day of polling
The Sabarimala women's entry issue, one of the major poll planks of the Opposition UDF and the NDA against the ruling LDF during the campaign, took centre stage of debate even on Tuesday as major leaders locked horns over the matter.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity at the Sabarimala, and all other gods are with the LDF government which has worked for the welfare of people.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala in his reaction said the Left government would surely face the wrath of Lord Ayyyppa and his devotees in this election.
Lashing out at Vijayan, BJP state president K Surendransaid what the chief minister had done in Sabarimala three years ago was the 'act of demon' and people of the state would never forget his "wicked deeds".
Kerala had witnessed violent protests by right-wing activists after the LDF government decided to implement the 2018 Supreme court verdict allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala, where traditionally women in the menstrual age group of 10-50 are barred from offering worship.
The war of words became intense as the polling continued with the several prominent leaders on both fronts coming up with sharp reactions supporting and opposing the statements of the chief minister.
Sporadic incidents of violence reported
Tempers ran high at Kattayikonam in the Kazhakootam constituency, a stronghold of the Marxist party in Thiruvananthapuram district, as CPI(M) and BJP workers clashed.
Four BJP workers were injured and their car damaged.
Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran, who is the LDF candidate from the constituency, told reporters that the aim of the protestors was to disrupt the voting procedure and alleged that police had acted as "BJP agent".
Three Marxist workers, including the minister's personal staff, have been taken into custody.
He said the BJP workers had reached Kattayikonam in two cars and allegedly attacked CPM workers including a ward councillor and that he would file a complaint before the Election Commission and the DGP.
Sobha Surendran, the BJP candidate from the Kazhakootam constituency, had earlier in the day held a sit-in protest in front of a polling booth in the area.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, seeking re-election from Dharmadom in Kannur, expressed confidence that the LDF would be voted back to power and register a "historic" win.
BJP's Karnataka president Nalin Kumar Kateel expressed confidence on Tuesday that the party will score victories in Manjeshwar and Kasaragod Assembly segments. BJP Kerala state president K Surendran is the party candidate from Manjeshwar.
The BJP will also win eight other seats in other districts including its sitting seat of Nemom in the Thiruvananthapuram district, he said.
Kateel, who was involved in the campaign for the polls, also claimed the BJP has grown popular among women and youth in Kerala. "People have lost faith in the CPM-led LDF and the Opposition Congress-led UDF," he claimed.
He said the believers have turned against the LDF after its adamant stand against the age-old customs at Sabarimala Ayyappa temple. "The people will also register their protest against the 'murder politics' of CPI-M," he added.
The BJP account in Nemom, the solitary seat won by the saffron party in the 2016 polls, will be "closed", he said. Central forces were deployed in 549 critical location booths and 433 vulnerable polling booths in the state
Local body polls in 2020 saw a voter turnout of 76.2 percent.
With inputs from PTI
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