Millions vote in Kerala; Chandy, Left confident (Third Lead)

Thiruvananthapuram, May 16 (IANS) Nearly 13 million people had voted by Monday afternoon in Kerala to pick a new assembly, with both the Congress and the Left insisting they were on the road to victory.

Long queues formed outside polling centres across the state right from 7 a.m. despite rains, with officials saying that 43.88 percent of the 26 million voters had exercised their franchise by 1 p.m.

The balloting, to elect 140 legislators, will end at 6 p.m.

As brisk voting continued, both Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and CPI-M veteran V.S. Achuthanandan asserted that their coalitions were set to win the electoral battle.

Chandy said after casting his vote that he was confident the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) would retain its majority in the assembly.

“We are certain the people will give us one more chance,” Chandy told the media at his hometown Puthupally near Kottayam.

Added Congress leader and former chief minister A.K. Antony: “For the first time in the state a ruling party is going to retain power. While the Left will remain in the opposition, the BJP won’t win any seat.”

The main opponent to the UDF is the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

Marxist leader Achuthanandan, contesting from Malampuzha in Palakkad district, met voters one last time before returning to Alappuzha to cast his vote.

“There is a slight rain and this is a good omen,” he said. “There is a huge wave in our favour. We are heading for a landslide victory… People are going to show the exit door to Chandy.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to enter the Kerala assembly for the first time.

State BJP president Kummanem Rajasekheran, contesting in Vatiyoorkavu in the state capital, said things were looking very bright for the BJP.

“There is a strong opposition to both the Left and the Congress. That’s why we are hugely confident this time,” he said.

Kannur, considered a Marxist bastion, recorded 47.61 per cent turnout followed by Kottayam (45.59). Thiruvananthapuram’s polling percentage was put at 36.14.

Kerala has 2,60,19,284 voters. A total of 1,203 contestants, including 109 women, are in the fray.



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