Despite rains, huge turnout in Kerala by-election (Roundup)

Thiruvananthapuram, June 27 (IANS) Despite heavy rains, some 76 percent of the 184,210 electorate voted on Saturday in the Kerala assembly by-election in Aruvikara here which saw a triangular contest involving the CPI-M, the Congress and the BJP.

Election officials reported a turnout of 76.31 percent by the time polling ended at 5 p.m.

The election followed the death of Kerala assembly Speaker G. Karthikeyan in March. He had represented the constituency for 24 long years.

There were a total of 16 candidates in the fray and 184,210 voters — up from 164,884 in 2011 when Karthikeyan won by over 10,000 votes and which saw a 70 percent turnout.

The ruling Congress fielded Karthikeyan’s 31-year-old son K.A. Sabarinathan while the Communist Party of India-Marxist nominated 67-year-old former speaker and minister M. Vijayakumar.

The Bharatiya Janata Party put up its regular warhorse, O. Rajagopal, 85.

On Saturday evening, all three candidates expressed confidence they would win the election.

Sabarinathan, who early in the day called the Aruvikara electorate his “extended family”, said the huge voter turnout looked “very promising” for him and that he would win by a handsome margin.

Vijayakumar said the electorate was waiting to teach a lesson to the Oommen Chandy government and described the heavy turnout as an expression of people’s aversion to the Chandy government.

Rajagopal said the people of Kerala were sick and tired of both the main political fronts headed by the Congress and the CPI-M and they would “definitely vote for a change”.

The voting went off peacefully.

On Saturday, the photos of all candidates were affixed on the Electronic Voting Machines — for the first time in India to eliminate confusion among voters.

The votes will be counted on Tuesday, and the results are sure to cast a shadow on the local body elections set for October and the assembly polls in April next year.

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