More than 70 percent voter turnout in Kerala

Image courtesy: Manorama online

By Staff Correspondent

Kerala witnessed more than 70 percent voter turnout in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections today.  A total of 227 candidates contested in the 20 constituencies in the state.  Voting was prolonged in some places where voting had to be paused earlier during the day due to technical difficulties.

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There have been isolated incidents where the malfunction of EVMs was reported.  In a booth in Thiruvananthapuram, UDF supporters complained that when someone voted for the hand symbol of the Congress the light near the lotus symbol of the BJP flashed.  The malfunction was reportedly noted after more than 70 people had voted, and the officials checked the machine and ruled out any problem, however replaced the machine after which voting was resumed.  Meanwhile, a case has been reportedly registered against a youth after he complained that his vote was recorded wrongly on the VVPAT machine and it could not be proved when the machine was checked.  State CEO Tikaram Meena reportedly stated that case would be registered under Section 177 if those who accuse malfunction in the EVM could not prove it.  EVM malfunction complaints were reported in Alappuzha and Kannur also.

The main contest in the state is between the Left Democratic Front led by the CPI (M) and the United Democratic Front led by the Indian National Congress.  However, there are a few constituencies in which the BJP has a strong presence, though the party has never won a LS seat from the state.  The UDF, the LDF and the NDA are contesting in all the 20 seats.
Most number of candidates contest in Wayanad constituency where Congress president Rahul Gandhi is the star candidate.  The constituency with a considerable presence of minorities has a total of 20 candidates including Raghul Gandhi K S/o Krishnan P of a party named ‘Agila India Makkal Kazhagam’ and independent candidate Rahul Gandhi KE S/o Valsamma.  The LDF fielded PP Suneer of the CPI and the NDA candidate is Thushar Vellappalli of the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS).  Babu Mani is the candidate of the SDPI.  The Congress party in the state had earlier announced the name of Adv T Siddique as candidate in Wayanad, and began campaigning too before the name of Rahul Gandhi was officially announced later.  The candidature of Rahul Gandhi also attracted the ire of national BJP leaders who accused him of fleeing Amethi out of fear of losing.

The least number of candidates were in the reserved constituency of Alathur.  The CPI (M) fielded its sitting MP Dr PK Biju, while the Congress candidate is Ramya Haridas, one of the two female candidates of the party.  The other female candidate of the Congress is Shanimol Osman in Alappuzha, who is also the party’s lone Muslim candidate.  The LDF has fielded two female candidates – PK Sreemathi Teacher in Kannur and Veena George in Pathanamthitta.  The Muslim League is contesting in two constituencies – PK Kunhalikkutty from Malappuram and ET Muhammed Basheer from Ponnani.

Some of the smaller parties such as the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the BSP are contesting in a few constituencies, whereas other parties like the Welfare Party of India (WPI), the Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM) etc support one of the major fronts.  The SDPI and the PDP announced their contesting elections as not harming the secular politics as the BJP was not a big power in Kerala, and as the main contest was between the UDF and the LDF.

The Welfare Party announced its election policy supporting the UDF explaining it was important to have more members for the Congress in the Parliament to become the single largest party, and added it was not the time to show the strength of parties but rather should act to save the nation.  The DHRM announced its support to the LDF explaining the need for secular parties to be in the Parliament.  The PDP is contesting in five constituencies.

The SDPI is contesting in 10 constituencies in Kerala.  State general secretary P Abdul Majeed Faizy is contesting from Malappuram.  Other candidates are Ajmal Ismail (Attingal), KS Shan (Alappuzha), VM Faizal (Ernakulam), PP Moideen Kunhi (Chalakkudy), Adv KC Naseer (Ponnani), Babu Mani Karuvarakundu (Wayanad), Musthafa Kommeri (Vadakara), KK Abdul Jabbar (Kannur) and Thulaseedharan Pallikkal (Palakkad).  When the leaders of the SDPI and the Muslim League were seen together at a hotel in Malappuram, the Muslim League ruled out any pre-poll deal while the SDPI explained it was a political meeting.
Gomathi Augustin, former leader of the tea plantation workers’ organization ‘Pembilai Orumai’, contested in Idukki as an independent candidate.  Announcing her candidature, Ms Gomathi had said that she was contesting to bring the issues of plantation labourers to the forefront.  She was one of the leaders of the Pembilai Orumai which brought women plantation workers to agitation demanding increase in wages and bonus for the 4000-odd female workers in 2015.

The BJP has considerable presence in some constituencies such as Thiruvananthapuram (Kummanam Rajasekharan) and Pathanamthitta (K Surendran).  The BJP has its lone MLA in the state in Thiruvananthapuram district.  The Sabarimala temple, which came into limelight recently by the SC order regarding women’s entry into it, is located in the Pathanamthitta constituency.  BJP candidate in the constituency has been at the forefront of the party’s agitation in the issue.