New Delhi: The southern states, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and Union Territory Puducherry go to polls on Monday.
The polls will decide the fate of chief ministers Jayalalithaa and Oommen Chandy and their arch rivals and nonagenarians M Karunanidhi and VS Achutanandan in their respective states witnessing multi-cornered contests.
The counting of votes in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry where rival candidates fought a gruelling two-month campaign in peak summer along with West Bengal and Assam will take place on May 19.
The BJP is seeking to make inroads in Tamil Nadu and Kerala where the power has oscillated between the AIADMK and the DMK and the Congress-led United Democratic Front(UDF) and the CPI-M led Left Democratic Front(LDF) respectively for decades.
A total of 3,740 aspirants are in the fray for the 233 assembly seats. Of the total 234 constituencies, polling will be held in 233 seats as the election commission had deferred the process in Aravakurichi segment in Karur district to May 23 due to “unlawful” activities of candidates and political parties in “bribing” voters. Counting of votes in Aravakurichi will be taken up on May 25.
More than a lakh police and paramilitary personnel would man over 65,000 polling booths across the state, which is witnessing a multi-cornered contest also featuring BJP, seeking to make a mark along with a few minor allies.
According to reports, election authorities have seized more than Rs 100 crore unaccounted cash in the state, the largest among the five states involved in the assembly polls.
Tamil Nadu is known to generally elect one clear winner from the two Dravidian giants, DMK and AIADMK, since 1967.
Meanwhile in Kerala, the ruling UDF and LDF, which had gone hammer and tongs at each other during the electioneering, are keeping their fingers crossed even as BJP is hoping to get a toe-hold.
A total of 1,203 candidates, including 109 women, are contesting for the 140 assembly seats.
Besides Congress’s Chandy and Achutanandan, the 92-year-old CPI-M veteran, and his party colleague Pinarayi Vijayan, home minister Ramesh Chennithala(Congress), IUML leader and industries minister PK Kunhalikutty, former finance minister KM Mani (Kerala Congress-M), BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan, former Union minister O Rajagopal and cricketer Sreesanth are among the key candidates.
BJP has thrown its hat in the poll arena in the state known for its bipolar polity after stitching up an alliance with the newly floated Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, a party floated by the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, an organisation of the backward Ezhava hindu community.
The ruling party at the Centre is yet to open an account either to the assembly or Parliament from Kerala.
The two month-long hectic campaign in soaring summer heat saw national leaders, including prime minister Narendra Modi, who made three trips to the state to address five meetings, wooing the voters.
(With Agency Inputs)