Nearly 22 per cent of the total votes in the district were polled in the first five hours of the voting for the local body elections on Saturday.
The voting, which started at 7 a.m, was progressing at a steady pace without any major incident of violence or disruption reported so far. The polling percentage in the city was low compared to the rural areas in the district.
Polling was vigorous in several wards in Attingal Municipality and also coastal Beemapally, Beemapally East and Poonthura wards in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation limits.
The State Election Commission cancelled the polling in Kayyur grama panchayat ward in Kanjiramkulam near Poovar after an independent candidate there complained that the election symbol given adjacent to his name on the ballot paper affixed on the electronic voting machine (EVM) was different from the one he had used for his election campaign.
Officials said the re-polling ward was scheduled for October 25. Voting in Varkala Papanasam polling station was stalled around 12.30 p.m. after one of the EVMs there malfunctioned.
A citizen who arrived early to cast his vote at a polling booth in Melangode UP School was aghast to learn that somebody else had already voted his name. The presiding officer there registered his written complaint.
In Pettah Municipal Corporation ward, Communist Party of India (Marxist) workers protested against the alleged move of the United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate Sobha Chandrahas to employ private video camera men to cover the polls.
V. Sivankutty, MLA, raised the objection. Ms. Sobha said that local CPI(M) men had prevented her from talking to voters well away from the polling station. She alleged that her opponent, Shruthi, of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) was allowed to canvass votes inside polling station premises.
Similar protests were heard from candidates and their supporters in several Corporation wards in the city. In the tightly contested coastal wards of Beemapally and Poonthura, the police had a tough time preventing opposing political groups from attacking each other. The police have increased their presence in the coastal wards.
They have deployed additional "striker groups" of armed anti-riot policemen in Cheriathura, Poonthura, Beemapally and Poovar localities. The police said they were prepared for possible poll related violence in these areas in the evening.
LDF workers raised a small protest when the UDF candidate in Sasthamangalam ward, Suresh Kumar, accompanied film star Suresh Gopi when the latter arrived to cast his vote at the polling booth in RKD NSS High School.
Union Defence Minister A. K. Antony’s wife, Elizabeth Antony, cast her vote along with her son and budding film star Ajith Antony at the Lower Primary School in Jagathy at around 10.15 a.m.
Ms. Elizabeth told news reporters that Mr. Antony was undergoing an Ayurvedic treatment in New Delhi for physical rejuvenation. "If Antony travels now, the treatment would be rendered ineffective", she said. Ms. Elizabeth declined to comment on the outcome of the polls stating that she was "no politician".
Mr. Ajith, with his Bollywood style long and burgundy tinted hair, was the centre of attraction of news photographers and television camera men. Congress leader M. M. Hassan and family accompanied Ms. Elizabeth to the polling booth. Mr. Hassan said that the UDF was on the cusp of a historical electoral win in local body elections in the State. "It is advantage UDF’, he said. Education Minister M. A. Baby and his wife and television producer Ms. Betty cast their vote at St. Joseph’s High School in the morning.
The voting was at an unhurried pace in most polling stations in the heart of the city. Most urban voters seemed to be in a holiday mood and arrived in the company of friends and neighbours to cast their votes. It was also a day when politicians, bureaucrats, film stars, ministers and common people mixed with ease and it seemed for a fleeting moment that all social differences had suddenly been erased.
There are 23.68 lakh voters in the district. The elections are for 1,299 wards in 73 grama panchayats, 155 wards in 11 block panchayats and five Municipal Corporations in the district.