At 93, Abdul Rahim finds it difficult to walk. On Thursday morning, he took half an hour to walk down a sheer slope that led to the Government Lower Primary School that served as the polling booth at Mulloor, near Vizhinjam. A young relative held on to him as Mr. Rahim took determined steps to cast his ballot, something he has unfailingly done for half a century now.
“I have voted in almost every election, for the past 40-50 years,” he told The Hindu, flashing a toothless grin, “I will vote this time too.”
Holding a rosary and a voter’s ID card tightly in his left hand and supporting himself on the side walls with his right hand, James, a 79-year old retired government servant, was one of the first voters at St. Mary’s Higher Secondary School, Pattom. “Today, I changed the usual direction of my morning walk to reach the polling booth early. But then, there is more rush than I expected,” Mr. James said.
Across the spectrum of ages and political affiliations, thousands of voters in Thiruvananthapuram and Attingal reaffirmed their faith in democracy right from the word go on polling day.
Avoiding the scorching summer heat and the prospect of a free day were the major reasons cited by the early voters. But as one moved further into the interiors, the polling booths were in a sleepy mode even at 10 a.m.
Polling at centres such as Government Lower Primary School, Kulathur, and Government Upper Primary School, Chanthavila, witnessed sudden voter-peaks post 11 a.m.Buzz of excitement
“There is some kind of excitement in voting this time around, as we have a feeling that some major change is going to happen after these elections,” Valsalakumari, one of the women who lined up at Chanthavila, said.
At Government High School, Koliyakode, near Pothencode, nuns clad in ochre robes from the Santhigiri Ashram came in large groups to exercise their franchise.
The capital city’s coastal areas usually wake up early. But on Thursday, the people seemed to have decided to sleep in. Long queues remained a rare sight till around 2 p.m. And when the queues started to get longer, rain struck towards 3 p.m.
In adjoining Attingal, enthusiastic voters, mostly women and first-time voters, lined up early morning in polling booths across the constituency. Polling was brisk in the first four hours, but lost pace in the afternoon, only to gather momentum later in the day.Main issues
Most men to whom The Hindu spoke were candid in admitting that a change was indeed necessary at the Centre, but were not willing to bury their ideological preference for bringing in the change.
Women seemed to be worried about the rise in prices of essential commodities, but said they felt things would be the same whoever came to power.
Sudha, who returned to Sarkara, near Chirayinkeezhu, from Rajasthan after working there as a nurse, said it was difficult to manage affairs of home owing to the increase in the prices of essentials.
“But it’s going to be the same even if there is a change in government. We only see politicians at our doorstep during elections. We are only nokkukuthikal,” she said.
One palpable trend was the presence of a large number of first-time voters in most of the polling booths.
A government official posted in the polling booth at Girls Higher Secondary School, Attingal, said new voters lined up from early morning.
“We saw some of them even making calls to their friends and expressing their happiness about exercising their franchise,” a polling officer said.
Siddique, an engineering student who cast his vote at a upper primary school near Thonnakkal, near Attingal, said, “I am happy to be part of the electoral process, but not sure whether it’s going to make any change in my life. I would like to see the nation progress and want to live without fear,” he said.