Tamil Nadu on Thursday witnessed just over 70 per cent polling with disputes over deletion of names from electoral lists and stray incidents of violence marring the smooth conduct of the election that was devoid of traditional pomp and pageantry associated with celebrity politicians casting the vote.
In Chennai, unlike in the past, the Stella Maris college, where J Jayalalithaa would cast her vote, and the nearby Sri Sarada Secondary school, the usual venue where M Karunanidhi exercised his franchise, did not draw the usual crowds of party supporters, media personnel and security forces.
Media persons had to make do with capturing film personalities like Rajnikanth, Meena, Vijay Antony, Kuhsboo, Prabhu with family, Sivakumar and others at the booths. Among the politicians who were caught at booths were DMK president Stalin, Thoothukudi DMK candidate Kanimozi, MDMK leader Vaiko, Makkal Needhi Maiyam founder Kamal Hassan with daughter, Deputy Chief Minister O Pannerselvam etc.
Though polling began on a brisk note across the state for 38 Lok Sabha seats, other than Vellore where election was put off over alleged confiscation of large quantity of cash from a warehouse, the broiling heat wave perhaps played spoilsport as voter turnout slowly declined through the day.
Reports of voters complaining of deletion of names were aplenty. At a booth in Ritherdon Road (Bala Kalvi Nilayam Middle school) a group of people, originally from North India, found to their shock that their names were not in the list. They questioned the authorities as how their names were deleted. At a booth at N K T School in Royapettah, a Muslim family kicked up a ruckus after all their names were missing. Then, an official is said to have consoled them, explaining that the names had been deleted by mistake and offering to let them vote.
At a school in Vellikodu in Kanyakumari district, a flutter ensued after a policeman on duty at the booth reportedly asked voters to press the first button. An advocate was seen in a video clip abusing an official for allegedly pulling him by the shirt and the policemen were seen pacifying him. The unsavoury incident had reportedly taken place at the S T Hindu College in Nagercoil. In some places like Puthan Santhai, Serupalur, Thoothur and Layan in the same district there was a complaint of faulty EVMs that the officials did not repair for hours.
Karungani, the forest region that was in the news for a forest fire that killed many young trekkers in March 2018, saw some 300 families of Muthvakurichi boycotting the polls. The region falls under the Theni constituency and has been neglected with no one heeding to their demands for roads, water, medical facilities and such basic amenities.
A booth in Thandalai village in Ariyalur district polled just 20 votes till afternoon causing concern among the political parties. The village was one of the 13 villages around Jeyamkondan where people had been threatening to boycott the election demanding that NLC returned their land, which were acquired 20 years ago but was not used for the project, and the related documents to them.
In Puducherry, booth agents of various parties objected to an official opening the VVPAT enclosure, attached to the EVM, bringing to the scene higher officials, who agreed that tampering with the VVPAT facility was wrong and promised to resume polling with a new machine.
Chennai, for the first time, saw a special booth being set up inside the Institute of Mental Health for facilitating 190 patients to cast their vote. In North Chennai’s Erukancheri area there was alleged violence as a polling booth was seized by members of the ruling party.
In Ariyalur district’s Senthurai, a Dalit colony in Ponparappi village was vandalised by caste Hindus. The area falls under the Chidambaram (reserved) constituency, where Dalit leader and founder of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Thol Thirumavalavan is contesting under the ‘pot’ symbol. Reports said that pots were broken by the miscreants, symbolically expressing their anger against Thirumavalavan.
Among the former Union Ministers contesting this election are: Dayanidhi Maran (DMK) in Chennai Central, T R Balu (DMK) in Sriperumbudur, E V K S Elangovan (Congress) in Theni, Su Thirunavukarasar (Congress) in Tiruchi and Anbumani Ramadoss (Pattali Makkal Katchi) in Dharmapuri, S Jagathrakshakan (DMK) and A K Moorthy (PMK) fighting each other in Arakkonam and A Raja (DMK) in Nilgiris. The only sitting central minister who was in the fray was Pon Radhakrishnan, contesting from Nagercoil.
In 2014, the voter turnout in Tamil Nadu was 73.77 per cent and in 2009 it was 73.05. Prior to that, the voting percentage had hovered at 60 per cent and below that. However, today’s polling percentage dropping below the last two Lok Sabha elections is a pointer to the campaign for achieving 100 per cent voting failing miserably