Ker elections: Minor incidents of violence reported in some places as polling percentage crosses 71 per cent

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Thiruvananthapuram, Apr 6 (PTI): Kerala continued to witness a massive turnout of voters on Tuesday with 71.31 per cent electors casting their franchise till 6 PM as minor incidents of violence were reported from few places.

According to the Election Commission figures, 71.31 per cent polling was recorded till 6 PM.

While 71.26 per cent of male voters had cast their franchise, 71.35 per cent were womenand transgenders 36.33 per cent.

As many as957 candidates are in the poll arena vying for 140 Assembly seats in the state where the election is being held as per COVID-19 protocol.

Two voters, including a woman, standing in the queue in Aranmula in Pathnamthitta and Chavittuavary in Kottayam collapsed and died.

Tempers ran high at Kattayikonam in Kazhakootam constituency, a stronghold of the Marxist party in Thiruvananthapuram district, as CPI(M) and BJP workers clashed.

Four BJP workers were injured and their car was damaged.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, who is the LDF candidate from the constituency, told reporters that the aim of the protestors was to disrupt the voting procedure and alleged that police had acted as 'BJP agent'.

Three Marxist workers, including the minister's personal staff, have been taken into custody.

He said the BJP workers had reached Kattayikonam in two cars and allegedly attacked CPI(M) workers including a ward councillor and that he would file a complaint before the Election Commission and the DGP.

Sobha Surendran, the BJP candidate from Kazhakootam constitutency, had earlier in the day held a sit-in protest in front of a polling booth in the area.

A polling officer at Thalavady in Kuttanad's Alappuzha district failed to turn up for poll duty on Monday evening following which another official had to be deployed, Election Commission sources said.

Police said they had received a man missing case and on investigation it was found that the official was at his residence itself and had reportedly 'overslept'.

The state had witnessed a fierce campaign in the run up to the polls by the ruling CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the BJP-led NDA.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, seeking re-election from Dharmadom in Kannur, expressed confidence that theLDF would be voted back to power and register a 'historic' win.

The BJP account in Nemom, the solitary seat won by the saffron party in the 2016 polls, will be 'closed', he said.

On the polling day also, sparks flew over the Sabarimala issue with the LDF and UDF locking horns.

Vijayan said the devotees of Lord Ayyappa and all other gods will be with the LDF, while Congress leader, Ramesh Chennithala, opined that bhaktas will not forgive the Left Front, which will face Ayyappa's wrath.

Kerala had witnessed violent protests by activists of BJP and right wing outfits after the LDF government decided to implement the 2018 Supreme court verdict allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala, where traditionally women in the menstrual age group of 10-50 are banned from worshipping.

Besides Vijayan, 11 of his cabinet colleagues are among the 957 candidates in the poll arena.

Former Chief minister Oommen Chandy (Puthupally), opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala (Haripad), BJP state president K Surendran, contesting from Koni and Manjeshwar and 'Metroman' E Sreedharan (Palakkad) and nine film and television actors are also in the fray.

Malayalam superstar Mammooty, actorsSuresh Gopi, Fahad Fasil and Dileep were among the early voters.

Central forces were deployed in 549 critical location booths and 433 vulnerable polling booths in the state.PTI UD SS PTI PTI