Technical glitches notwithstanding, 65 per cent of Kerala’s over 2 crore strong electorate had cast their votes by 5 p.m. as polling went on in the state’s 20 Lok Sabha constituencies in the third round on Tuesday.
While voting was slated to formally end at 6 p.m., election authorities said all those who enter the polling station compound before that time will be allowed to cast their votes.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the final tally was 73.89 per cent and it remains to be seen if the 2019 turnout will match or surpass it.
In Wayanad, from where Congress president Rahul Gandhi is contesting, the turnout was an impressive 72.48 per cent so far. In 2014, the turnout was 73.23 per cent.
According to the poll officials, Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) failed to function in some booths and were subsequently replaced. Many leaders, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, expressed their concern over the faulty voting machines.
However, Kerala’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Teeka Ram Meena clarified that he had already informed everyone that if it rained a night before voting, the machines might take a while to be ready due to the humidity.
“This is not a state-wide problem, but happened only at a few places. The glitches have been rectified,” Meena said.
Most top leaders and film stars cast their votes in the morning session. Kerala Governor P. Sathasivam and his wife cast their votes in Thiruvananthapuram.
Vijayan, who was seen waiting in a queue with his family outside a booth in Kannur, said the fight this time was between the Left and the Congress-led UDF.
“The BJP is not going to make any impact. It will finish not second, but third in all the constituencies,” he said.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala predicted a clean sweep for the Congress. “The Vijayan government will take a severe beating,” he said.
After casting his vote in Kozhikode, state BJP President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai claimed that a few surprises would spring up when the results are announced.
Superstar Mammootty, who cast his vote in Kochi, encouraged the people to use their right to vote. “This is the only time people get to choose who will represent them,” he said.
Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy cast his vote at his hometown Puthupally in Kottayam. “The United Democratic Front (UDF) will do very well as this time it’s going to be a ‘vote against Modi in the Centre and against Vijayan in the state’,” he said.
Mocking Chandy’s forecasts, CPI-M state Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said: “His predictions in earlier elections have all fallen flat. Just wait and watch, the Left will better its 2014 performance in the state.”
Hyderali Shihab Thangal, the state President of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), UDF’s second-biggest constituent, was seen waiting in the queue before polling started in Malappuram, where it has been raining heavily.
“Both our candidates, Kunhalikutty and E.T. Mohammed Basheer, as well as Rahul Gandhi will win with record margins. The Congress-led UDF will score an excellent victory,” he said.
Congress candidate Hibi Eden and his wife were the first voters at the Mamangalem polling booth in Ernakulam constituency. “We expect to come out with shining colours,” Eden told the media.
Comedian and Lok Sabha MP Innocent, who is seeking a second term as the CPI-M-supported Independent candidate from Chalakudy constituency, was also spotted in the queue along with his family.
Congress-led UDF candidate N.K. Premachandran and his wife cast their votes early in Kollam. “I’ve faced a smear campaign, but I am confident that I will win easily,” he said.
A record 227 candidates are trying their luck for Kerala’s 20 Lok Sabha seats.
A total of 2,61,51,534 voters, including 1,34,66,521 women, 1,26,84,839 men and 174 belonging to the ‘other’ gender, were eligible to exercise their franchise in 24,970 polling stations spread across 14 districts.