Brisk polling is continuing in the Alappuzha Assembly by-poll, though a couple of minor skirmishes were reported from different parts of the constituency.
According to District Collector and Electoral Officer P. Venugopal, 61 per cent of the electorate had turned up at the 104 polling booths by 3 p.m.
Meanwhile, police forces rushed to a polling station near the St. Michael’s School in Thathampally near here after a clash broke out between activists of the CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and
the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). According to sources, an unidentified group arrived on an auto-rickshaw and thrashed the LDF polling agent sitting in a party booth outside the polling station. Enraged LDF activists retaliated by attacking the UDF booth near the school. Three persons are said to have sustained minor injuries in the clash.
Mr. Venugopal said the situation was brought under control with police personnel, led by a Deputy Superintendent of Police rushing to the spot and removing the trouble-makers. Though there were rumours that a Congress councillor was thrashed and had to escape the LDF activists’ ire by seeking refuge in a nearby church, the Collector said the police team on the spot did not get any information on such an incident.
Another minor tiff was reported from a polling station in the Pazhaveedu area. According to witnesses, the argument broke out when Alappuzha MP, K.C. Venugopal, arrived at the station to cast his vote.
LDF activists surrounded him alleging that he was canvassing votes inside the polling station, following which UDF activists took the side of Mr. Venugopal, whose elevation to the Lok Sabha led to the by-poll. However, security forces intervened and dispersed the crowd to bring the situation under control.
Both the LDF and the UDF are viewing the by-poll in the Alappuzha Assembly segment as a prestige issue. While the UDF is aiming at continuing the dominance it has maintained on the constituency through four consecutive victories, the LDF, particularly the Communist Party of India (CPI), is looking to salvage lost pride. The CPI, which has been fielding candidates on behalf of the LDF ever since the constituency was formed, has not been able to taste success here after 1987, when its candidate Rosamma Punnoose won.