Nearly 40 per cent turnout as 'smooth' polling underway in TN

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(Eds: Recasts, adds details) Chennai, Apr 6 (PTI) Voter turnout was nearly 40 per cent in Tamil Nadu till 1 pm as polling continued peacefully in a brisk pace across the state with key leaders including AIADMK's K Palaniswami, O Panneerselvam and DMK chief M K Stalin exercising their franchise on Tuesday.

'Till 1 pm, the polling was 39.61 per cent and the highest was Virudhunagar district with 41.79 per cent and lowest was Tirunelveli with 32.29 per cent,' Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo told reporters adding there were no major law and order issues anywhere and polling was on 'smoothly.' Asked about an allegation that at a polling station in Virudhunagar, whichever candidate people chose on the EVM, it displayed only a particular symbol, he 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.

On claims that one or two poll officials died during duty, he said there were no such reports.

Asked on the number of EVMs that encountered faults, he said it is 'very few' and all were rectified and nowhere polls were stopped due to such matters.

Celebrities like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan were among the early voters and top 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 rise in fuel prices.

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

Sahoo said free and fair polls were on adding observers and zonal parties were monitoring the polling exercise and in case of any 'problem' they would immediately take action.

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 in polling stations, they were provided hand 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 (6pm to 7 pm) and they would be provied with PPE kits, officials said.

Chief Minister Palaniswami accompanied by his grandson, cast his vote at Siluvampalayam in his native Salem district and urged all people to cast vote.

'I request (all) to perform our democratic duty,' he told reporters.

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

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

Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan, who is trying his luck for the first time in Assembly polls, cast his vote here before heading to Coimbatore from where he is contesting polls.

After visiting a poll booth in Coimbatore, Haasan alleged money distribiution was happening outside and that tokens were also being given to be redeemed for articles later and hinted that he may file a complaint on the matter.

DMK candidate for Thondamuthur assembly segment, Karthikeya Shivesenapathy lodged a complaint alleging that he was threatened by some AIADMK workers, when he was proceeding to a polling station.

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 today.

Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan and state BJP Chief L Murugan also cast their votes in the city.

The state has 88,937 polling stations, 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 are on duty and over 1.50 lakh security personnel including those from state police, Central Armed Police Force, and home guards have been deployed.

There are 10,813 vulnerable polling stations and 537 critical and webcasting is being done from '50 per cent' of the polling stations. PTI VGN SA ROH ROH