The voter turnout in the single phase Tamil Nadu Assembly election held on April 6 is 71.79%, which is 3.02% lower than the 2016 Assembly election and 2.37% lower than the 2019 general election.
Similar reduction in voter turnout was visible in Kerala and Puducherry, the other two states which went to polls on the same day in a single phase.
Kallakurichi district topped the list with a voter turnout of 78%. In 2016, the highest voter turnout was in Dharmapuri, which recorded 85% votes, 7% more than the highest turnout this time. The capital Chennai continues to be the district with the lowest voter participation, trailing with 59.4%. Notably, it is an increase from the 2016 voter turnout of 55%.
Besides the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) led Secular Progressive Alliance and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) led National Democratic Alliance there are parties like Naam Tamilar Katchi, Makkal Needhi Maiam and Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam in the fray this time. But, only the dravidian major led alliances put up a strong show at the booths with Booth Level Agents giving out booth slips.
POLLING DURING PANDEMIC
While earlier it was decided to restrict the last one hour for those under COVID-19 treatment or in isolation as suspected COVID-19 cases, but past noon the Election Commission opened it up for the public as well. "The state has 88,937 polling booths and the number of COVID-19 patients aren't too many... COVID-19 patients will be allowed to cast their votes in the end," explained Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo.
Also read: Assembly Elections 2021: Voting Ends for 475 Seats, with Non-BJP Parties at Helm in 3 States
Polling staff were seen wearing face shields, masks, and hand gloves, and additionally donning PPE kits during the exclusive hour of voting for COVID-19 patients. Minister of Parliament and DMK leader Kanimozhi, who was tested positive for Covid-19 four days ago, was among those who donned the PPE kit and cast her vote in the last hour.
MP Kanimozhi casting her vote. Image Courtesy: The Hindu
Voters were provided masks and hand sanitisers before entering the booth, and their temperatures were also tested. However, efforts at maintaining social distancing was limited.
Social distancing was completely abandoned when crowds gathered around celebrity actors like Ajith, Vijay and Rajinikanth. Police reportedly had a difficult time clearing the crowd.
On social media, actor Vijay’s cycle and actor Ajith’s mask, which were red and black in colour, were interpreted as support to the DMK. Vijay cycling to the booth was also interpreted as a way of criticising the sky-rocketing petrol and diesel prices.
CASH FOR VOTES
The Election Commission made record seizures in the five states that held Assembly elections. Tamil Nadu topped the chart in terms of cash seizure, at Rs 236 crore. For precious metal as well the state topped the list with seizures worth Rs 176.22 crore.
Voters of Thiruparankundram constituency in Madurai reported that cash was being distributed to voters near the booths. A person from the constituency told NewsClick, “Even though voters went with their slips to the police to show that cash is being dished out near the booths, police refused to take action. So, we sat in protest until a case was filed against the perpetrators.”
Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) chief Kamal Haasan lodged a complaint with the Returning Officer (RO) in the Coimbatore South constituency while polling was on. With videos to substantiate his claim, he said that certain parties were distributing tokens which can be exchanged for money post elections.
Meanwhile, the DMK and Congress cadres staged a protest in the same constituency demanding action against BJP workers who were found distributing tokens to people who had turned up to vote.
Information from various constituencies in the state reveals that cash was discretely doled out for votes. A voter from Pudhukottai said, “The AIADMK gives cash to buy votes particularly from the swaying crowd. They didn’t give us cash thinking we are supporters of its alliance party PMK, but we are voting for the rising sun (DMK’s electoral symbol).”
When asked about cash for votes, a voter in Tambaram constituency in Chennai said, “Each voter id got Rs 500. It is our money that they looted from us anyway, we are just getting it back”.