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BJP, Congress seek 'review' of polling process in rain-hit Kerala

Vinson Kurien THIRUVANANTHAPURAM | Updated on October 21, 2019 Published on October 21, 2019

File Photo of P S Sreedharan Pillai, BJP Kerala president.   -  The Hindu

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee President Mullappaly Ramachandran (file pic)

The Kerala state BJP President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai has requested the State Election Commission to review the situation on the ground, with the North-East monsoon hitting polling to the Assembly by-elections.

Rains have lashed the five Assembly constituencies of Vattiyoorkavu (Thiruvananthapuram), Konni (Pathanamthitta), Aroor (Alappuzha), Ernakulam and Manjeswaram (Kasaragode) since polling began at 7 am this morning.

Read more: North-East monsoon prompts 'orange alert' on polling day in Kerala

According to Pillai, polling has been affected in a large number of booths.

'CREDIBLE PROCESS'

The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee President Mullappaly Ramachandran has also requested the Election Commission to see how best it can intervene to ensure a 'credible electoral process' in Ernakulam.

“Even the last voter who reports in should be allowed to exercise his/her franchise, taking into consideration the adverse weather in the heart of the city and widespread flooding,” he said.

But C.N. Mohan Kumar, Secretary of the Ernakulam district committee of the CPI(M), was of the view that the polls need not be postponed, but voters must be be able to reach the booths without any difficulty.

Ernakulam has been the worst hit with flooding at a level not witnessed even in the 2018 floods, with the entire city submerged under a sheet of water and public life hit badly, according to sources.

In a weather update this (Monday) morning, the Met Department has declared an 'orange alert' in 13 of the 14 districts in the state (Thiruvananthapuram being the sole exception).

VOTING TRENDS

The Met has warned of moderate to heavy showers and thunderstorms accompanied by lightning in the afternoon, which could likely hit polling for those who may have postponed voting, hoping for better weather later in the day.

In Vattiyoorkavu in Thiruvananthapuram, 32.49 per cent polling was recorded until 12.30 pm, lagging the the trend set in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections (38.74 per cent).

Manjeswaram, which is the only constituency not to have been hit by adverse weather, clocked 34.37 per cent voting, while Ernakulam, the worst-hit, recorded a polling percentage of 20 per cent. Polling in Konni was at 35.37 per cent and in Aroor at 36.31 per cent.

The three fronts of the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), the Congress-led Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) and the NDA have reason to worry, as the polling pattern is likely to be hit by the rains.

Except Aroor (Alappuzha), a CPI(M)-held seat, all four are sitting seats of the UDF -- these seats became vacant after the MLAs fought and won in the Lok Sabha elections. The UDF swept the general elections held earlier this year, winning 19 of the 20 seats. The LDF only won in Alappuzha.

HIGH STAKES

The LDF is hoping that its recent success in a by-election from Pala, following the demise of former Finance Minister and Kerala Congress (M) strongman, K.M. Mani, would help it successfully navigate Monday's contests.

What makes the polls a contest to watch is the spirited presence of the NDA-BJP, which came in a close second in both Vattiyoorkavu and Manjeswaram in the 2016 Assembly elections.

These constituencies apart, the now-acknowledged third front is putting up a stiff fight in Konni in Pathanamthitta district, the seat of the hill shrine of Sabarimala, with the firebrand K. Surendran in the fray.

Sabarimala may not have found much traction this time round, but the war cries of socio-cultural fronts, the Nair Service Society (NSS) and the Ezhava Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP), may have made up for it.

The stakes are high for all major political formations since the by-elections could possibly set the tone for elections to the local self-government bodies and the next State Assembly, which are not too far behind.

The other issues hogging the limelight in Kerala are the 'marks awarding' row involving Higher Education minister K.T. Jaleel and the alleged 'unkept' promises of the ruling LDF.

Published on October 21, 2019
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