They turn up in large numbers to exercise their franchise in Madurai district.
Politicians, social activists and government officials in the district were shocked to witness a steep drop of around 10 per cent in voter turnout on Thursday compared to last parliamentary elections held in 2009. But what provided them solace was the conviction shown by the elderly and infirm to cast their votes, braving several adversities, including sweltering heat.
It was a sight to behold early in the day to see many old couples, either walking together with each other’s palms locked tight or riding mopeds towards the polling booths. S. Rajendran (60) of Chekkanoorani on the Theni highway said he and his wife chose to vote by 7 a.m. itself to avoid the sun later in the day. “My wife agreed to be my pillion rider just because of the elections,” he blushed.
Elsewhere in a polling booth situated at a Panchayat Union Primary School at Ilanjiyendhal near Idaiyapatti, K. Veeraiyee, a rustic old woman who could only guess her age to be around 80 years, had walked down for about 1.5 km to cast her vote at about 11 a.m.
What’s more, the aged woman had come to the booth without anybody accompanying her.
After fulfilling the identity verification formalities and placing her thumb impression on the register, the woman gave the polling officials the shock of their life by claiming that she could not see the symbols on the ballot unit owing to poor eye sight. Immediately, a booth agent of a political party offered to help. But the Presiding Officer discouraged him from going near the voting enclosure.
Later, the polling agents requested the presiding officer herself to assist Veeraiyee who whispered her choice in the ears of the woman officer.
The officer, in turn, held the finger of the elderly woman and helped her press the button in the ballot unit. Officers in other booths also faced similar problems, especially with the aged voters.
In a booth at S. Alangulam, an elderly woman, hard of hearing, did not press the button properly despite the officials giving her three chances.
Tired of asking her to press the button firmly until a red light glows and the unit beeps, the presiding officer asked her husband to cast her vote instead. Later, the aged man was given another chance to cast his vote.