CPI(M) hijacked poll machinery to bring down turnout in Kerala: Venugopal

Voter turnout in the state peaked at 70.22 per cent on Friday, a drop from the 77.84 per cent for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls

Voters wait at a polling station in Thiruvananthapuram on 26 April (photo: PTI)
Voters wait at a polling station in Thiruvananthapuram on 26 April (photo: PTI)

NH Political Bureau

A day after polling concluded for the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala, the Congress on Saturday alleged that voters were harassed and the election machinery hijacked by the state's ruling CPI(M) in order to bring down the turnout percentage.

Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal said the "hijacking of the election machinery" by the ruling CPI(M) was one of the reasons for the decrease in polling percentage this year compared to the turnout in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The turnout reached 70.22 per cent on Friday, with reports of long queues outside several polling booths across the state. This figure, while healthy enough by itself, was still quite a drop from the turnout of 77.84 per cent for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Venugopal claimed there were glitches in electronic voting machines (EVMs) in three to five per cent of polling booths, which led to long delays in the election process, which in turn caused discomfort to voters who had to stand in long queues for hours in the intense heat. Some of them reportedly even went back home without voting.

One booth agent and as many as eight voters reportedly died, ostensibly owing to the heat, in Palakkad, Alappuzha, Malappuram and Kozhikode. 

Venugopal alleged that 90 per cent of EVM glitches occurred in booths where the Congress-led UDF was strong. "It was a polling process that harassed voters as no drinking water, seating, or lighting facilities were available in the booths and people waited for hours to vote because of the EVM glitches. The election machinery was completely hijacked by the CPI(M) with the aim of bringing down the polling percentage," he said.

Though voting officially ended at 6.00 pm on Friday, voters were seen in queue even after 8.00 pm in Vadakara and Kasaragod. According to information received, those in queue were issued tokens.

Attingal, Kannur, Chalakudy, Palakkad, Wayanad, Alappuzha and Kasaragod constituencies had higher voter turnouts whereas Ponnani had the lowest. Kannur recorded the highest turnout at 75.57 per cent. Thiruvananthapuram recorded 66.43 per cent, Alappuzha 74.37 per cent, Thrissur 72.11 per cent, Wayanad 72.85 per cent, Vadakkara 73.36 per cent, and Kasargod 75.74 per cent.

In Idukki's Chakkupallam, CPI(M) branch secretary Biju was stopped from casting bogus votes. Two fake votes were allegedly cast in Idukki's Karimannur.

Besides Venugopal, Kasaragod Lok Sabha candidate and Congress leader Rajmohan Unnithan reported booth capturing and bogus voting by suspected CPI(M) workers in the Payyanur Assembly segment.

His booth agent Ranjith at Karamel Aided L.P. School (booth no. 78) in Payyannur municipality was assaulted and admitted to Priyadarshini Hospital in Payyannur. Unnithan said the CPI(M) workers bothered him when he stopped a bogus voter from casting a vote for one Athira, who is working abroad as a nurse. The bogus voter ran away, but several other bogus voters turned up and Ranjith opposed them, after which he was reportedly beaten up.

In four booths (71, 72, 73 and 75) at the Government Higher Secondary School at Velloor in Payyannur municipality, suspected CPI(M) workers chased away Congress booth agents and began large-scale bogus voting, said reports.

Venugopal said that despite such alleged moves by the ruling Left party, the pro-UDF wave and the anti-incumbency sentiment against the state and central governments will ensure that the LDF and the BJP-led NDA do not win any seats in Kerala.

He also said that the Congress will be carrying out an analysis of the polling process carried out in the state and based on the outcome requisite legal steps would be initiated.

With inputs from agencies

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