(Eds: Updating with poll percentage) Chennai, Dec 21 (PTI) The R K Nagar bypoll today witnessed a record 77.68 per cent voter turnout with polling to the constituency, which was represented by the late J. Jayalalithaa, passing off peacfully amid tight security. Also Read - Gabba Hero Washington Sundar Set For New Innings as Chennai's 'District Election Icon'
Election officials here said there may be some variation in the figure after taking into consideration the polling percentage at some booths where voting went on beyond 5 pm. Also Read - After Sasikala, Her Cellmate Also Tests Covid Positive
The voter turnout is higher than the 68 per cent recorded in the 2016 assembly election,according to officials. Also Read - Chennai Corporation Seals Kumaran Silks Shop After Video Shows Massive Crowd Violating COVID Norms
The bypoll is being seen as an acid test for the chief minister K Palaniswami and deputy O Panneeerselvam-led ruling AIADMK which is facing a strong challenge from sidelined leader T T V Dhinakaran and an aggressive DMK.
The DMK is putting up a tough fight to wrest the seat after a hiatus of over two decades.
Of the 59 candidates in the fray, the fight is essentially triangular with the key contenders being ruling AIADMK’s E Madhusudhanan, main opposition DMK candidate N Maruthu Ganesh and Dhinakaran, contesting as an independent.
The ruling AIADMK got back its Two Leaves election symbol back following merger of factions led by Palaniswami and former rebel O Panneerselvam.
The run up to the bypoll saw political parties and candidates holding as many as 152 public meetings and taking out 605 processions with the campaigning ending on December 19.
The 2015 R K Nagar bypoll in which Jayalalithaa was elected by a huge margin of 1.5 lakh votes for the first time in this segment had witnessed a record 75 per cent turnout.
Voting at 258 polling stations passed off peacefully with 2500 state police personnel, 15 companies of Central Armed Police Forces and 1638 election officers manning the poll process.
Serpentine queues were witnessed in booth after booth, right from 8 am when voting began with women outnumbering men in several of them.
A large number of people were awaiting their turn to vote even at the scheduled close of voting at five pm.
All those who were present inside the polling stations ahead of the 5 pm deadline were given tokens by officials to ensure that they exercised their franchise.
There were, however, sporadic complaints of snag in EVMs, and consequential delay.
Some voters complained that their names were deleted, othes claimed their names were struck off the rolls wrongly categorising them as “dead.”
Gun-toting Central Armed Police Force personnel in their trademark green uniforms were stationed at all the polling stations and across the 45 checkposts in and around the Dr Radhakrishnan (RK) Nagar constituency.
Senior poll officials including the district election Officer D Karthikeyan inspected the polling stations.
Several dozens of flying squad teams, static surveillance teams and video surveillance teams were deployed in the constituency.
Election authorities made elaborate arrangements to ensure both hassle free environs for voters and measures for free and fair polling with nine observers, 307 micro-observers and 258 web cameras to monitor the poll process.
Chennai Corporation personnel drafted for poll duty took differently abled persons inside the polling stations using wheel-chairs.
In booths that had a significantly high number of voters, a medical team comprising doctors, and paramedics were stationed.
‘Pandals’ were put up, and help desks helped people find the right booth to vote. Amenities like drinking water, and toilets were also in place.
R K Nagar, represented twice by Jayalalithaa, has an electorate of 2,28,234, comprising 1,10,903 men, 1,17,232 women and 99 transgenders.
Election officials said 79.21 per cent of women voters exercised their franchise while 75.92 per cent of men cast their votes.
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 24 and the results are expected to be out by afternoon that day.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.