Moderate polling in Kerala, election official dies

Saturday, October 23, 2010

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM - Moderate and peaceful polling was under way in the first phase of the Kerala local bodies elections in seven districts Saturday even as a polling official died after developing uneasiness, officials said.

The first phase of polls are being held in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kasargode and Kannur distict. Polling began at 7 a.m. and after three hours, 19 percent of people had cast their votes, according to figures from the state election office. Voting ends at 5 p.m.

A record 70,915 candidates are in the fray for the 21,612 seats in the three-tier local bodies structure in the state.

While elections to 9,238 seats are being held in the first phase, the remaining seats will go to polls in the second phase Oct 25 when people will cast their vote in Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Malappuram and Palakkad districts.

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are being used only in elections to corporations and municipalities, while the traditional ballot papers would be used in the gram, block and district panchayat polls.

Polling has so far progressed without any problems though at Kannur, a polling official developed uneasiness while on duty, fell unconscious and was declared dead on arrival at hospital.

There were reports of EVMs developing technical snags in a few places but these were rectified, officials said.

People in villages were seen making a beeline to the polling booths early in the morning itslef but there was less enthusiasm in the cities.

Elections to the local bodies were last held in 2005 and since then all the five corporations in the state are being governed by the Left Democratic Front (LDF). Similarly, LDF was in power in 11 of the 14 district panchayats, 33 out of 53 municipalities, 114 out of 152 block panchayats and 688 out of 984 grama panchayats.

But the Congress-led opposition is in a buoyant mood this time as it expects strong public resentment against the present Left government that has been ruling the state for the past 53 months.

However, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, who cast his vote in Kannur, said that the LDF would sweep the local bodies polls.

“You wait and see, the LDF will make gains even in the strongholds of the opposition because of the good policies of the present Left government,” said Vijayan.

Union Minister of State for Home Mullapally Ramachandran said he had received reports that there could be “problems” in Kannur.

“We were prepared to send central forces but the state government was not keen on it. The report that I have received is that there could be problems in Kannur,” said Ramachandran.

State Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, however, denied this.

“Till now no one has informed me of any issues anywhere. And if anyone can point out any trouble, it would be looked into,” Balakrishnan said.

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