As four states and a union territory across the country — West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry — went to polls on Tuesday, the day witnessed some dramatic scenes that garnered public attention and left the people amused. While the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry held single-phase elections today, West Bengal went to polls for the third phase and Assam conducted the final phase of state assembly polls. Held amid tight security, the elections were largely peaceful, however, incidents of sporadic violence were also reported from some parts of the states.
Here’s how the election day turned interesting in the states and the union territory:
In West Bengal, four EVMs and a similar number of VVPATs were found at the house of a Trinamool Congress leader in Howrah district, following which a poll official was suspended. The incident happened in Tulsiberia village in the Uluberia Uttar assembly segment. Villagers spotted a vehicle with an Election Commission sticker outside the house of the TMC leader in the early hours, after which they started protesting. It was found that the officer of sector 17 Tapan Sarkar was visiting the TMC leader’s house with the EVMs. The seized machines were not used in today’s polling. The sector officer claimed that he reached the area very late and found the polling booth closed, following that he decided to spend the night at his relative’s residence, unable to find any “safe place” to stay.
Sporadic incidents of violence were reported on Tuesday in some areas where voting was underway in the third phase of the West Bengal assembly elections. Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee alleged “blatant misuse” of central forces to “influence voters”. She also shared a screengrab of a scuffle between BJP and TMC supporters in Goghat constituency.
Meanwhile, a BJP supporter’s family member was allegedly killed in Hooghly district, hours before the commencement of polling in the area, police said. Madhabi Adak succumbed to her injuries sustained while protecting her son from a few men who barged into their house, they said. Adak’s family accused that the TMC was behind the incident, a charge denied by the ruling party.
Unlike the regular incidents of violence or EVM malfunctions that usually become the highlight of an election day, polling in Tamil Nadu saw actors gain the limelight for different reasons. Tamil actor Vijay rode a bicycle to the poll booth in Chennai 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. Dressed in a light blue shirt and jeans, he made his way through a sea of fans who had gathered to catch a glimpse of their favourite star. Vijay’s bicycle ride caused a frenzy among fans, who allegedly were lathicharged by police.
Celebrities like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan were among the early voters. 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.
Meanwhile, Tamil actor Ajith, who went to a polling booth in Thiruvanmiyur in Chennai with his wife, made news after a viral video showed him snatching a fan’s phone for clicking selfies with the actor without his consent. He also asked his mask-less fan and others to leave.
DMK Lok Sabha MP Kanimozhi, who is being treated for COVID-19, voted at a polling station in Chennai wearing the Personal Protective Equipment kit. Also, a number of others being treated for the virus voted here and in other parts of Tamil Nadu. Kanimozhi, also DMK’s women’s wing secretary, arrived in an ambulance from the hospital where she is being treated for the infection and voted with the PPE kit on.
Amid massive turnout of voters on Tuesday with 71.31 per cent electors casting their franchise till 6 pm, Kerala reported minor incidents of violence in few places. 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.
Two voters, including a woman, standing in the queue in Aranmula in Pathnamthitta and Chavittuavary in Kottayam collapsed and died.
Meanwhile, in an interesting incident, 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. 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’.
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.
The third and last phase of the state election in Assam in 40 constituencies spread across 12 districts on Tuesday was largely peaceful despite sporadic incidents of violence and disturbances in some areas. The state displayed a festive mood as the first voters at the polling centres were greeted with saplings and the senior citizens with ‘gamosas’ (traditional Assamese scarf). In a celebration of the festival of democracy many model polling stations were decorated with recyclable items, art installations made with bottles and plastic wrappers. Many others had children’s play zone, seating lounge and selfie zones. Many of them also had seating areas in rainbow shades, themed on inclusivity and LGBTQ rights.
Some of the voting centers are decorated to represent the cultural diversity of the state. Ethnic fabric and handicraft items are on display and mannequins draped in tribal attires were placed in the selfie zones. The Assamese festival of Bihu, which is just 10 days away, was a popular theme in several polling booths. Arched gates and seating areas with colourful chairs are imparting the polling centers a festive look. At a polling station at Goalpara, women polling personnel wore identical mekhela and chador — an Assamese traditional attire. The polling, which began at 7 am, will continue till 6 pm.
Puducherry witnessed brisk polling as an estimated 66.36 per cent of the 10.04 lakh voters in the Union Territory exercised their franchise till 3 PM on Tuesday. Official sources said that 66.36 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise in Puducherry while the Karaikal region recorded 64.86 per cent, Mahe 56.53 per cent and Yanam region 71.60 per cent. Yanam, where the AINRC leader N Rangasamy is contesting, registered a higher percentage of polling than the other three regions from the beginning.
Rangasamy is seeking election to the territorial Assembly from Thattanchavady segment in Puducherry region also. The contest is keen between the AINRC-led NDA and the Congress-led Secular Democratic alliance. Former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader V Narayanasamy, however, bowed out of the poll contest on the ground that he had to coordinate poll related work in the union territory.