Polling begins in Kerala

suresh-gopi-vote BJP Rajya Sabha member Suresh Gopi | ANI/Twitter

Polling in 21,498 booths to elect representatives to the 140-member Kerala assembly, began at 7 AM today.

The 2.61 crore electorate will be choosing their representatives from the 1203 candidates, including 109 women, who are in the fray.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, IUML leader and Industries Minister P. K. Kunhalikutty, Kerala Congress (Mani) supremo and former Finance minister, K. M. Mani, 93-year-old V. S. Achuthanandan, CPI-M leader, Politburo member, Pinarayi Vijayan, BJP state president, Kummanam Rajasekharan and cricketer-turned politician Sreesanth are among those contesting.

Among the early voters were Pinarayi Vijayan, actor and BJP Rajya Sabha MP Suresh Gopi and Congress MLA Sabarinath.

Even before polling began at 7 am, people had begun queueing up at various booths. Some parts of the state received rain showers this morning.

At least 52,000 police personnel have been deployed across Kerala for the smooth conduct of the polls, with 3176 polling stations being identified as 'sensitive, critical and vulnerable', including 119 in naxal affected areas of four districts.

There are 21,498 regular polling stations and 148 auxiliary polling booths across the 140 assembly segments in the state.

The two-month long campaign saw ruling Congress-led UDF and CPI-M headed LDF engaging in a fierce battle, with BJP-NDA alliance also eyeing to open its account for the first time.

The coming of the BJP-led alliance in the polls is seen by political observers as an attempt to break the bipolar politics of the state, which has always chosen the rival fronts alternatively over the last several years.

The saffron party has tied up with Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), a newly floated party of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), an organisation of the backward Ezhava community.

Of the 2.60 crore electorate, 1.35 crore are women voters and two belong to the third gender. This is the first time the third gender figures in the electoral rolls in the state.

Several overseas voters, especially from north Kerala, have been coming to the state since the past few days to cast their franchise. The strength of the overseas electorate is 23,289.

Kerala voters from the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have also reached the state to exercise their franchise.

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