While the polls were largely peaceful, sporadic, poll-related incidents were reported from a couple of places, reports said

The single-phase Assembly election in Tamil Nadu concluded peacefully with a voter turnout of 71.43 percent as per the latest estimated figures available on the EC’s Voter Turnout app. A total of 234 constituencies went to polls at 7 am on Tuesday.

Key leaders including Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami, deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam and DMK chief MK Stalin exercised their franchise.

Follow coverage on Assembly elections 2021 here

While the polls were largely peaceful, sporadic, poll-related incidents were reported from a couple of places, PTI reported.

Till 5 pm, the overall polling percentage was 63.60 percent, Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo told reporters. However, the voter turnout app put the figures at 71.43 percent in the southern state.

In terms of districts, Karur saw the highest polling of 83.92 percent and Chennai saw the lowest with a 55.28 percent turnout.

While Palaniswami and Panneerselvam will cement their position as successors of Jayalalithaa if the AIADMK retains power though it faces an uphill task especially after the rout in the 2019 Lok Sabha election when the DMK-led alliance won 38 out of 39 seats.

The AIADMK had scored successive wins in 2011 and in 2016 when Jayalalithaa bucked the anti-incumbency trend — the first by anyone in nearly three decades in the state.

After a narrow defeat in the last Assembly election where several exit polls had predicted his party’s win, DMK chief MK Stalin spearheaded a determined election campaign this time and vigorously toured the state to take on the ruling AIADMK.

He is seeking re-election for the straight third term from the Kolathur Assembly seat while his son and party youth wing secretary Udhayanidhi Stalin is debuting from the Chepauk-Triplicance constituency.

AIADMK ally BJP, which had not won any seat in the last polls, is contesting in 20 constituencies. Another AIADMK ally PMK is contesting from 23 constituencies. The Congress, an ally of the DMK, is in the fray in 25 Assembly segments.

Makkal Needhi Maiam, founded in 2018 and led by actor-politician Kamal Haasan, is trying its luck in Assembly polls for the first time.

AIADMK, DMK accuse each other of ‘attacks’

On Tuesday, both the AIADMK and DMK, engaged in accusations and counter-accusations about poll code violations and violence.

The ruling AIADMK filed a petition with the CEO against Udhayanidhi Stalin, DMK candidate from the Chepauk-Triplicane segment, for allegedly wearing a party insignia that also encompassed the DMK’s symbol — rising sun — while voting. The AIADMK sought Udhayanidhi’s “disqualification”.

Additionally, AIADMK Lok Sabha MP P Ravindhranath alleged he and his supporters were allegedly attacked by DMK men. Pointing to the damaged windscreen and window of his car, he alleged it was an attempt aimed at a “murderous assault”, adding that “huge stones” were used for the attack.

Meanwhile, DMK’s Thondamuthur constituency nominee in Coimbatore district, Karthikeya Sivesenapathy, alleged that AIADMK and BJP workers tried to attack the car he was travelling in.

He told reporters that a complaint has been lodged. An AIADMK worker allegedly threatened him too, he claimed.

In Salem district, a scuffle broke out in a polling station between a man who was wearing a ‘PMK’ party towel and a voter who objected to it. In Tiruvallur and Dindigul districts, AIADMK and DMK men came to blows near polling stations over allegations and counterclaims of ‘canvassing votes’ on election day.

Two voters, including one at a polling station in Chennai, claimed that their votes had already been cast and they later voted, using ballot papers by invoking section 49P of conduct of election rules.

In Tamil Nadu, this rule became popular after actor Vijay’s 2018 movie Sarkar had a scene portraying its use.

At Kodangipatti in Ramanathapuram district, no voter reportedly turned up in polling station till evening as the locals announced a boycott of the polls in protest against the non-availability of basic amenities.

CEO seeks report on scuffles between AIADMK, DMK

Chief Electoral Officer Sahoo said there were no major law and order issues anywhere, adding reported incidents were only minor in nature.

On incidents like the one involving the AIADMK MP and DMK nominee in Thondamuthur, reports have been sought from local officials, he said.

Asked about an allegation that at a polling station in Virudhunagar, whichever candidate people chose on the EVM, it displayed only a particular symbol, the official said there were no such reports.

Only the symbol that was chosen gets recorded in the EVM and the same was corroborated in the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail units, he said.

Asked about the number of EVMs that encountered faults, he said it was ‘very few’ and all were rectified and nowhere polls were stopped due to such matters.

Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Vijay step out to vote

Celebrities like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, MNM leader, were among the early voters. Top Tamil actor Vijay rode a bicycle to the polling booth leading to speculation by social media users who asked if it was a subtle ‘sign’ of opposition to the rise in fuel prices.

His publicist clarified that the actor did so in view of car parking problems in the small street where the polling booth was located.

Even before polling began at 7 am, people could be seen eagerly queuing up before the polling stations and voter information slips were distributed to the people to help them identify their booths.

As soon as people arrived at polling stations, they were provided sanitisers to clean their hands and then given a disposable glove. Some people who arrived without masks were asked to wear one to be allowed to vote.

People who had tested positive for coronavirus have been allowed to vote during the last hour of polling (from 6 pm to 7 pm) and they would be provided with PPE kits, officials said.

Palaniswami cast his vote in his native Salem district and urged all people to cast their vote.

Speaker P Dhanapal voted in Salem, Panneerselvam in the Theni district and ministers including SP Velumani and Sellur K Raju in Coimbatore and Madurai, respectively.

DMK president MK Stalin, after paying homage at the mausoleum of his party patriarch M Karunanidhi and party founder CN Annadurai, cast his vote at Teynampet.

Actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam chief, Kamal Haasan cast his vote in Teynampet before heading to Coimbatore from where he is contesting polls.

Haasan alleged money distribution in Coimbatore and his party has lodged a complaint with the district poll authority seeking action on the matter.

BJP state unit chief L Murugan, who is contesting from Dharapuram, voted at a booth.

Congress leader P Chidambaram, DMDK leader Premalatha Vijayakanth, Naam Tamilar Katchi leader Seeman, PMK MP Anbumani Ramadoss, a slew of actors including Surya, Karthi and Sivakarthikeyan were among those who voted.

Polling was held in a total of 88,937 polling stations using 1,29,165 ballot units, 91,180 control units (which comprise the Electronic Voting Machine) and an equal number of VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) units.

As many as 4,17,521 polling personnel were on duty and over 1.50 lakh security personnel including those from state police, Central Armed Police Force, and home guards were deployed.

There are 10,813 vulnerable polling stations and 537 critical and webcasting was done from ’50 percent’ of the polling stations.

The counting of votes in the states will be held on May 2.

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