Over 8.4 mn vote in Kerala civic polls first phase

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 2 (IANS) More than 8.4 million voters of the 10.1 million electorate exercised their franchise on Monday in the first phase of Kerala’s civic body polls.

The polls are being seen as a keen contest between the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) and the opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF), while the BJP too is hoping to make inroads.

Polling began at 7 a.m and came to a close at 5 p.m, with all those who arrived at the scheduled close of time being allowed to vote.

With the end of polling in seven of the 14 districts in the state, the fate of 31,161 candidates vying for 9,220 wards/divisions have been sealed.

By and large, polling took place peacefully in most places, but skirmishes were reported between various parties at a few places in Kannur, Kollam and in the capital district.

The seven districts where polls were held were Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Idukki, Kozhikode, Kannur, Wayanad and Kasargode.

Even as the final figures of polling were yet to come, preliminary figures reveal that Wayanad district recorded an 80 percent turnout, while the capital district recorded the lowest with 72.6 percent.

After casting his vote, CPI-M politburo member Pinnarayi Vijayan told media persons the results of the civic polls are going to be path-breaking in the political history of the state.

“The Congress-led UDF will disintegrate once the results are out on November 7,” Vijayan said.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, however, brushed aside Vijayan’s comment.

“For the past four-and-half years, Vijayan has been saying this. But all what has happened is it was their ally partner which left them and if some have left us, they are in dire straits now,” he said.

Chandy is busy campaigning in the districts which go to the polls in the second and final phase on Thursday.

Altogether, over 2.5 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 9 percent turnout in the early hours.

UDF convenor P.P. Thankachen expressed confidence that the outcome will be a feather in the cap for the Chandy government.

The Congress-led UDF holds power in about 65 percent of the local bodies in the state.

Former defence minister and Congress leader A.K. Antony said on Monday that there was no alternative to the Congress-led UDF in Kerala, and that it will emerge victorious in the polls to the 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 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 his party which will make the biggest gains in the civic polls.

In the outgoing local bodies, the BJP has around 500 seats of the nearly 22,000 seats.

After casting his vote in the capital city, superstar Suresh Gopi, who has jumped into the BJP bandwagon, said the BJP in Kerala has started to gain momentum.

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