Over 70% voter turnout in TN, Kerala, Puducherry

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM / CHENNAI: In an exercise that will see a ripple effect or more on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, elections to the politically significant states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well as Puducherry ended Wednesday with millions voting peacefully to bring in new assemblies.

While Kerala saw more than 74 percent of the 22 million electorate voting, the turnout in neighbouring Tamil Nadu was also a high 75 percent of 47 million voters. Puducherry witnessed more — 78 percent polling.

With 404 combined seats in the coastal belt, this was a crucial phase for Election 2011 – the largest electoral exercise since the 2009 general elections that has already seen polls in Assam and will also include West Bengal where the six-phased polls begin April 18.

For India’s ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), this could be a litmus test of far reaching consequences as its key ally DMK took on the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. In Kerala, the Congress is confident its United Democratic Front (UDF) will oust the Left Democratic Front (LDF).

The high turnout in Kerala boosted the morale of the LDF as well as the UDF competing in a state that has never returned a government to power. There were 971 candidates, including 78 women, in the fray.

An upbeat Ramesh Chennithala of the Congress-led UDF said they would win 100 of the 140 seats. Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, 87, was equally confident that the Left would get a renewed mandate.

Rhetoric reigned in Tamil Nadu too, where Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s DMK faced a resurgent AIADMK of J. Jayalalithaa.

In the complex political landscape of Tamil politics, both parties claimed they would emerge victorious in the 234-member house.

Tamil Nadu saw a high of 2,748 candidates, including 141 women.

Former chief minister Jayalalithaa predicted a landslide win for her alliance, which includes the Communists, and a possible clear majority for her party. The AIADMK is contesting in 160 seats.

Terming the DMK corrupt, she said: "There has been corruption earlier but not on this scale. Not only the 2G spectrum scam but people are also aware of scams in granite quarrying, sand mining and others."

Karunanidhi, seeking election to the assembly for a record 12th time and as chief minster for the sixth time, added equally definitively: "DMK’s chances are as bright as the ‘rising sun’ (the party’s election symbol)."

The party is contesting in 119 seats, leaving 63 for its ally Congress – an arrangement arrived at after considerable negotiations with both parties realizing the stakes involved.

"It will be a DMK-led government. It could be a single party government or a coalition," Karunanidhi said.

In neighbouring Puducherry, the voter turnout was 84.13 percent.

Over 810,000 voters – about 390,500 men, 419,800 women and five transgenders – decided the fate of 187 candidates.

The choice in the union territory was between incumbent Congress Chief Minister V. Vaithilingam and former Congress chief minister N. Rangasamy, who now heads the All India NR Congress (AINRC).

For the first time in India, NRIs got to vote.

In Puducherry’s Mahe district, 29 NRIs voted. And in Kerala, among the voters was Thiruvallam Bhasi, a journalist from Melbourne who had come all the way to exercise his franchise.

There were 8,862 non-resident Keralites — 8,531 males and 331 women — registered to vote.

Counting of votes for all the five assemblies will be on May 13.(IANS)

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