Polling begins in 20 LS seats in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram, April 26 (UNI) Polling began in all 20 Parliament constituencies at 7 am in Kerala, where 2,77,49,159 voters, including 1,43,33,499 women, will exercise their franchise in the second phase of the 18th Lok Sabha elections in the country on Friday.

Long queues were witnessed in several polling stations as people were casting their votes at the 25,231 polling booths set up across 13,272 locations in Kerala, where 194 candidates, including 25 women, are contesting from 20 constituencies.

Kerala is witnessing high-profile contests in Wayanad, Pathanamthitta, Thiruvananthapurm, Alappuzha, Attingal, and Thrissur constituencies.

In Wayanad, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is contesting against CPI’s Annie Raja and BJP’s state president K Surendran. In Thiruvananthapuram, Congress leader Dr Shashi Tharoor is fighting against NDA candidate and Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

In Pathanamthitta, Anil Antony, son of senior Congress leader and former union defence minister AK Antony, is fighting against CPI(M) leader and former Kerala finance minister Dr Thomas Isaac and sitting Congress MP Anto Antony.

Former Rajya Sabha member and actor-turned-politician Suresh Gopi is contesting from Thrissur against Congress leader K Muraleedharan and former state agriculture minister VS Sunil Kumar of CPI.

AICC General Secretary KC Venugopal is fighting against BJP leader Sobha Surendran in Alappuzha. Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan is contesting from Attingal against Congress MP Adoor Prakash and VP Joy of CPI(M).

“Among the total voters, 5,34,394 are first-time voters aged 18–19. Additionally, there are 2,64,232 voters with disabilities and 367 transgender voters in the state. The single phase polling is being managed by 1,01,176 officials in Kerala,” Chief Electoral Officer Sanjay Kaul has said.

“Each booth is staffed by four officials, including the Presiding Officer. There are 437 booths managed solely by women, 31 booths by young individuals under 30, and six booths by staff with disabilities. Additionally, there are 316 ethnic polling booths and 131 theme-based booths.”

“For voters with disabilities, ramps and wheelchairs have been arranged at the booths. Voting machines with Braille are available for visually impaired voters. Special queue facilities are available for voters with disabilities and elderly voters, along with sign language facilities and transportation for voters with disabilities.”

“This Lok Sabha election, 30,238 electronic voting machines are being used in the state. If any machine malfunctions, reserve machines will be dispatched via the respective sector officers. A total of 63,100 bottles of ink are used to prevent fraudulent voting during the election.”

About 66,303 security personnel have been deployed to ensure security at polling booths, distribution centers, and strong rooms, and to ensure a smooth voting process.

Rapid action forces are also in place at all police stations to prevent any disruption due to law and order issues on election day. Special security measures have been taken in Maoist-affected areas to ensure that voters can vote without fear.

Webcasting systems have been installed for real-time monitoring in all booths across eight districts and in 75% of booths in six other districts to ensure a free and fair election.

Cameras have also been placed outside booths in centers with multiple booths to manage crowding and prevent booth capturing, the distribution of money, and false voting.

Webcasting is also implemented in problem-prone booths. Live feeds from webcasting are monitored in control rooms set up under the Chief Electoral Officer and Returning Officers of the 20 Lok Sabha constituencies, as well as in strong rooms and counting centers.

Kerala recorded 77.67% polling in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and 74.06% in the 2021 Assembly elections.

In 2019, the Congress-led UDF won 19 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala. The CPI(M)-led LDF had to settle for just a single seat. The BJP-led NDA, with a 13% vote share, could not win any seats.

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