College of Engineering Guindy (CEG), Queen Mary's College for Women and Loyola College in the city on Friday witnessed the unfolding of history. The institutions housed the counting centres for the 16 constituencies in Chennai.
With policemen and personnel of the paramilitary forces lined up, the campuses looked like guarded fortresses. “We were asked to report here at 4 a.m.,” said one of the police women in CEG, Anna University.
A room adjacent to the entry point to the counting centres on the Anna University campus was reserved for the media. Presspersons with cameras, telephones and notepads walked in and out periodically, eager to get some early glimpses into trends.
Even those authorised to enter the counting centres were subjected to a detailed security check and were not allowed to carry their cellular phones. Candidates, agents and those who counted the votes deposited their mobile phones at the designated counter.
Inside, display boards led to the counting centres of the five constituencies – T. Nagar, Velachery, Virugampakkam, Mylapore and Saidapet.
The election observer and his or her team were seated on a dais. A screen was kept beside them to project the results after each round. Facing them were the candidates seated together.
The counting room provided an opportunity for the candidates to bond and exchange notes on the weather, or facilities at the centres.
Mylapore candidates R. Rajalakshmi (AIADMK) and Vanathi Srinivasan (BJP) seemed to be having a good time chatting. “We're both lawyers and friends from our High Court days,” said Ms. Srinivasan.
The counting area had rows of tables with those engaged in the task seated on tall stools. As one person held the EVM, another made note of the votes for each candidate, in a particular round. A videographer stood right there capturing all the processes in detail.
“While it is exciting to get to see the results first, I will not get to know the overall trend like others in my family, who are watching television” said A. Santhi, one of the counting officials for Virugampakkam.
S. Babu was busy capturing the process on video. “Most of us are professionals who cover functions and weddings. We received special training for this. This is a very different kind of setting and we are enjoying it,” he said.
Agents of candidates were not permitted in the counting area, but they could watch the proceedings from behind grill partition. G. Kabali, an AIADMK agent at the Mylapore counting centre, said the place had no ventilation and the pedestal fans were just not enough. “The arrangements for agents could have been better,” he said.
Around noon, agents and candidates who stepped out for tea breaks got to know that the AIADMK was leading. A group of AIADMK supporters distributed water, butter milk and sweets to everyone.
The counting of votes polled in Velachery constituency proceeded at a rather slow pace at the counter on the Anna University campus.
By evening, when the winner in T. Nagar constituency was announced and given the certificate, AIADMK members came in huge numbers with garlands, shouting ‘Puratchithalaivi Vazhga!”
A few of them who wanted to enter the counting area got into an argument with security guards. When a journalist tried taking a photograph of this, one of the partymen remarked: “What are you going to do with the picture? We have won, don't you know?” After the security guards explained that only persons holding authorised pass were permitted, the party members left the area.
Queen Mary's College also saw elaborate arrangements. The campus seemed quiet in the morning and by afternoon when the trends began emerging clearly some candidates such as Royapuram Mano were seen sitting under a tree, not showing too many signs of hope. Votes polled in Dr. R.K. Nagar, Harbour, Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni and Royapuram were counted in the college.
While the Anna University campus and Queen Mary's College saw peaceful counting processes, Loyola College bore an air of anxiety from morning as the constituencies whose votes were counted included the high profile Kolathur. Anna Nagar, Thousand Lights, Perambur, Villivakkam, Thiru-Vi-Ka Nagar and Egmore were the other constituencies whose votes were counted in Loyola College.
DMK agents who were seen in large numbers, seemed tired and pessimistic after rounds two and three itself.
Cadres of political parties in the AIADMK front were in a jubilant mood in the southern suburbs of Chennai after their respective candidates got unassailable leads.
Votes for Tambaram constituency were counted at the Madras Christian College, while those of Pallavaram and Alandur constituencies were enumerated at Montfort School in St. Thomas Mount.
As the results were announced – AIADMK-led alliance sweeping all the seats in Kancheepuram district - it was celebration time for the cadres.
(With inputs from Meera Srinivasan, Aloysius Xavier Lopez, T. Ramakrishnan, K. Manikandan and P. Oppili)
Keywords: Tamil Nadu Assembly election results