Peaceful polling in The Nilgiris; high enthusiasm marks voting in Pollachi; boycott in some booths

Only 68.1 per cent of the voters in the Coimbatore Parliamentary constituency exercised their franchise on April 24. This is less compared to the 2009 figure of 73 per cent. The polling was largely violence-free, sources said.

The district administration encountered problems with the electronic voting machines at only 15 places – at eight booths in the Coimbatore Parliamentary constituency, five in the Pollachi Parliamentary constituency and two in the Mettupalayam segment of the Nilgiris Parliamentary constituency. The highest voter turnout was recorded in the Sulur Assembly segment – 75.79 per cent. Palladam Assembly segment came a close second with 73.3 per cent.

First-time voters and also senior citizens participated with equal enthusiasm in the polls, which went on from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sources said that to encourage more people to vote, the Election Commission of India had increased the time by two hours.S. Ramachandran, 90, of Kavundampalayam, said he voted because he wanted a new government that controlled prices and did not practise divisive politics. Ninety-two-year-old R. Ranganathan from Perur said that he did not want to miss voting this time, as he had been voting since the 1952 election.

In a few polling booths, people said that they did not find their names in the voters’ list though they had submitted their forms during the last revision exercise in March. S. Ganesan of Gokhale Street, Ramnagar, said that he had an electoral photo identity card but his name did not figure in the voters’ list.

His mother’s and sister’s name, however, figured in the list. He returned disappointed without voting. At a few places, personnel in-charge of web streaming elections faced difficulty in connectivity. At a few other places they were troubled by power cuts.

The personnel suggested that power backup would have helped them do a better job.Around 70 trans genders who voted in the Mettupalayam Assembly segment said that they wanted the Election Commission to allow them to form a separate queue and give a new electoral photo identity card recognising their new gender status.

Udhagamandalam

Polling in the Nilgiris for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections concluded on a peaceful note on Thursday. The percentage of polling recorded in the Nilgiris Parliamentary Constituency for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections held on Thursday was 72.95,according to the District Election Officer and Nilgiris Collector P.Sankar. Giving the break up, he said that Ooty recorded 67.09 percent,Coonoor:69.81,Gudalur:67.95, Bhavanisagar:79.63, Avinashi:76.49 and Mettupalayam:76.72.

However it was marred by boycotts and extremely low turnout in some of the booths. Enquiries made by The Hindu revealed that the residents of O’Valley panchayat in Gudalur carried out their threat of boycotting the elections.

The boycott was to register their protest against the lack of action to redress their long standing grievances relating to inadequate basic amenities, uncertainty over grant of pattas to those occupying Section 17 lands, inconveniences caused by forest rules particularly the Tamil Nadu Preservation of Private Forests Act and escalating man-wild animal conflict.

During the run up to the elections a newly formed outfit called the Gudalur Constituency People’s Livelihood Rights Federation had been seeking an assurance from the administration that the grievances of the people would be redressed. They had even hoisted black flags in various parts of the O’Valley panchayat.

Talks held with officials had not produced the desired results.Some of them staged a road blockade agitation at Selvapuram on Thursday.

It led to the disruption of traffic for about ten minutes on the Periya Choondi-Aaratuparai road. The District Election Officer and Nilgiris Collector P.Sankar said that no votes had been polled in two polling stations at Ellamalai and one in Periyasholai. Meanwhile official sources said that in Aaratuparai and Bharathi Nagar polling stations where there four booths only 10 percent of polling were had been recorded.

At three booths in Nanjanad village near here only a few voters turned up. The poor polling was attributed to the long standing dispute between two groups in the village.It had led to the murder of two persons belonging to the bigger group recently.

Citing different reasons members of the two groups had not turned up. With the weather being ideal polling started on a brisk note particularly in the rural and suburban areas.Badagas and members of tribal communities like Toda and Kota turned up in their traditional dress to cast their votes. For the convenience of voters the names of the candidates in Tamil and Malayalam along with their symbols were displayed on the walls of the booths. Mr.Sankar said that 15 EVMs in various parts of the constituency which were found to have developed technical problems had to be replaced.

He added that arrangements had been made to bring all the ballot boxes safely to the counting centre here.

Pollachi

Nestled within the forests of Valparai is the village of Navamalai. It can be accessed only by a narrow 6-km road, which branched off the Valparai Road. this route is also a hazardous one as elephants traverse all the time.

Even in this remote village, which has a power plant for a neighbour, there was a high enthusiasm for voting. As even before noon, almost half the population had exercised their franchise.

Of the total 248 votes, as many 122 had cast their votes by 12 noon, booth officials said.Across the Pollachi Parliamentary Constituency, there was a high enthusiasm with many polling booth witnessing long queues early in the day.

Overall, Pollachi Parliamentary Constituency recorded 73.1 per cent voting. A total of 10,09,580 voters exercised their franchise as against the total, 13,80,868 voters,

For the booth officials at the Panchayat Union School at Sarkarpatti, a settlement of tribal people, had to contend with the threat from wildlife. A wild bison was spotted near the polling booth on the late hour of Wednesday.

However, fortunately, no such incident marred voting on Thursday.Even here, voting was brisk early in the day. Of the total 194 voters registered to vote in that booth 127 had exercised their franchise by 1 p.m.

A model polling booth was established at the S.R.I.M.B.H.S. School at Mahalingapuram.In this, a red carpet was, literally, rolled out to the voters who were welcomed into the polling centre by a team of volunteers.

They also guided the voters to their respective booths and helped the elderly also. While most booths had ramps, this polling centre was equipped with three wheel chairs that was used a lot. Further, a medical team, comprising a health officer and three nurses, was also stationed at booth.

It attended to several complaints of dehydration, high blood pressure and giddiness

This was one of its kind in Pollachi Constituency, a booth official added.

There was a minor incident in a polling booth at St. Lourde School in Pollachi.A party member had brought an 85-year-old voter, Rukkumuniammal, by carrying her. She had valid voter identity documents and her name was present in the electoral rolls. After she was taken to the EVM, she just sat for several minutes. She refused to answer when the presiding officer asked her to vote.

After this, the officer asked the party cadre who brought her to talk to her and cast the vote, which he did.Agents of other political parties raised objection and a commotion broke out for a few minutes. It was resolved immediately

Reporting by Karthik Madhavan, D.Radhakrishnan and R.Sairam