Elections 2021

Kerala votes with a vengeance, logs 59.91 per cent polling by 3.40 pm

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on April 06, 2021

Pinarayi sets tongues wagging by invoking gods

Kerala seemed to vote with a vengeance with polling for the state as a whole sailing past the 50 per cent mark shortly after noon and clocking in at 59.91 per cent at 3.40 pm in a trend, if sustained, could lead to a record number (77.35 per cent in 2016 and 77.68 per cent in 2019 Lok Sabha elections) by the time voting ends.

The intensity of polling witnessed in the morning was only fractionally dented by noon, with voters milling around at many places defying the hot sun. With the process expected to draw in more voters into the evening, especially along the coastal belt, the numbers could go up sharply, experienced polling agents aver. 

Brisk in Manjeswar, Konni

Manjeswar, one of the seats which state BJP President K Surendran is contesting, clocked 59.23 per cent polling at 3.20 pm. In the 2016 elections, Surendran had lost the seat by just 89 votes. Konni, in the Sabarimala foothills, is the second seat which Surendran is contesting this time, where 59.91 per cent of the votes had been polled by 3.30 pm.

In Thiruvananthapuram district, the prestigious Nemom seat (Kummanam Rajasekharan of BJP) saw a polling percentage of 56.65 per cent by 3.20 pm. He is taking on K Muraleedharan of the Congress and V Sivankutty of the CPI(M). Other notable fights are in Kazhakkottam with 57.13 per cent, and Vattiyoorkav, with 52.55 per cent. Palakkad, where the BJP-NDA has fielded Metroman E Sreedharan, too, witnessed heavy polling from the morning. Palakkad district recorded 57.52 per cent polling until 3.30 pm. 

Stray violence reported

Violence has been reported from a few places, notably in the Kazhakkoottam seat which faces one of the fiercest multi-cornered fights, with BJP candidate Shobha Surendran alleging that party workers had been attacked by CPI(M) workers and that the police had not responded to her five requests for intervention.  Central forces have been mobilised at Kattayikkonam falling under Kazhakkoottam, where the BJP candidate takes on Kadakampalli Surendran, the Temple Administration Minister in the outgoing Left Democratic Government (LDF), and who the party holds squarely responsible for the Sabarimala controversy. 

In fact, it was the Sabarimala issue that hogged the limelight from early Tuesday morning, when G Sukumaran Nair, General Secretary of the influential Nair Service Society (NSS), said in Kottayam that devotees of Lord Ayyappa at the Sabarimala hill shrine are 'still bitter' about events in the recent past that hurt their faith.

Sabarimala hogs the limelight 

He opined that the people expected a change for the good this time round. They want a government that stands for faith, tradition and culture. This invited instant riposte in Kannur in the North, with outgoing Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan remarking that the gods of the land favour the LDF for the good governance it has delivered. Law Minister AK Balan said the 2021 Assembly election was not a contest between believers and non-believers. There are more significant issues at stake.

He has complained to the Election Commission against both Sukumaran Nair and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala for alleged attempts to dub the election as a 'fight between believers and non-believers.'

The Sabarimala issue hogged the headlines at least right past noon, after being mounted as the principal political narrative through the acrimonious campaign. Both the BJP-NDA (National Democratic Alliance) and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) had used the emotive issue as the central plank for the campaign.

Lost attempt to make peace

Soon after Pinarayi Vijayan appeared to invoke the gods, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala was quick to mock him by remarking in Alappuzha that it was a belated attempt by the Chief Minister to make peace after committing grave trespasses against Lord Ayyappa faith and trampling on the rights of the faithful. 

Joining issue, veteran Congress leader AK Antony said the Chief Minister must apologise to Lord Ayyappa for committing a grave error by allowing women of all ages to enter the hallowed portals of the hill shrine, conveniently taking shelter under the 2018 Supreme Court verdict.   

Former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy said Vijayan’s invoking of Ayyappa was not convincing. The Sabarimala devotees would simply reject what Chandy described as the latter's poll day overtures. The LDF government had invited the apex court verdict by filing an affidavit backing women’s entry.

Also read: Kerala Assembly Polls 2021: Second term for Pinarayi Vijayan?

 

Also read: Kerala: EC bans ‘Kottikalasham’ to minimise Covid-19 spread

 

Published on April 06, 2021

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