Sporadic violence witnessed; allegations of booth capturing in various localities made; names missing in rolls
The first-ever elections to the expanded Chennai Corporation Council on Monday witnessed 48 per cent voter turnout. Residents of areas that have been merged with the Corporation recently came out in large numbers as compared to those of the existing localities. The voter turnout in the areas brought under the civic body was around 55 per cent.
The turnout in the previous Council elections were as follows: 55 per cent in 2006; 36.11 per cent in 2001; and 45.75 per cent in 1996.
Though voting started at a slow pace in the morning in the city, it picked up gradually. Light showers for about an hour from around 11 a.m. saw less number of voters in the western and northern parts of Chennai. The rain was attributed to an upper air cyclonic circulation over southern peninsular region. Nungambakkam recorded 8.6 mm and Meenambakkam 14.6 mm during the 12-hour period ending 8.30 p.m.
While showers provided relief to voters in some areas, it was sunny in many localities, including those along Rajiv Gandhi Salai. Although thunders were heard and dark clouds gathered in Semmencherry, it did not rain. Voters in Kannagi Nagar complained about the heat, many had little choice but to brave it as there were no shamianas. Many vendors like E.Easwari, a buttermilk seller at Tiruvottiyur, made brisk business.
Share autorickshaws were seen ferrying elderly voters in Semmanchery. In many polling stations, candidates and their representatives were seen wooing voters by displaying party symbols and reminding them to vote for their candidates.
Several voters were irked as they did not get booth slips. In some places at Madhavaram and Ambattur, party cadre gave handwritten booth slips. Polling booth agents said that the print on booth slips distributed by the Chennai Corporation was smudged. Voters also complained about names missing from the voters list and names being found in other localities. Senior citizens and women carrying infants were seen asking police personnel to allow them to vote without standing in queue.
The polling day also witnessed sporadic violence and allegations of booth capturing in various localities, including Tiruvottiyur, Otteri, Velachery and Thiruvanmiyur. Staff at several booths, who wished to remain anonymous, said that those who “captured their booths” asked them to tally the numbers of voters.
Violence was reported in more than 25 places and police received more than 250 complaints relating to poll irregularities and violence. A mob ransacked a polling booth on the premises of staff quarters of the Reserve Bank of India on Poonamallee High Road and damaged the electronic voting machines.
A few persons, including a woman, attached to different political parties were injured and admitted to Government hospitals in the city. Kutti alias Savithri (35), an AIADMK member from Thousand Lights was attacked with a sickle on the head and arm after she cast her vote. Police sources said that two men have been detained.
Raj Kumar, a DMDK party worker, was allegedly assaulted by political rivals at a booth inside a school in Chetpet. He was admitted to the Government Kilpauk Medical College with severe head injuries, police sources said.
Tension prevailed for over an hour in the evening in Saligramam after AIADMK and DMDK party workers clashed following allegations of the ruling party members casting bogus votes. DMDK cadre staged protests blaming the police of favouring members of the AIADMK. Police resorted to a minor lathi charge to disperse the crowd, sources said.
In Pallikaranai, special police mobile teams swooped down on two SUV (sport utility vehicle) in which nearly a dozen men from Choolaimedu were seated. Suspecting that they were hired by politicians to cast bogus votes, Pallikaranai residents rounded them up. By the time police reached the spot, eight of the men had fled. Pallikaranai police detained Ganesh, a B.B.A student, and Jeyaraj, a driver of one of the vehicles.
In the evening, District Election Officer and Chennai Corporation Commissioner D.Karthikeyan said he had recommended to the State Election Commission (SEC) to conduct re-poll in four booths in the city – one in Kilpauk and three in Purasawalkam – where EVMs were damaged in violence and polling abandoned by 3 p.m.
DMK Mayoral candidate M.Subramanian submitted a complaint to the SEC stating that booth capturing happened at various places. He also demanded repoll in 239 booths in 17 wards. Despite an order from the Madras High Court, webcams did not function or were absent in many booths, he complained.
Malfunctioning electronic voting machines (EVMs) resulted in delay ranging from half an hour to over three hours in the morning in places, including Nanganallur, Virugambakkam, Royapuram, Madhavaram Milk Colony, Palavakkam, C.Kalyanapuram and Perambur.
The government holiday on account of the election came in handy for traders and shoppers. “For a Monday, it was a huge crowd” – this was largely what traders along Usman Road felt about sales on polling day.
T. Sarathy, secretary, Panagal Park and Usman Road Traders' Association, said that usually the crowd during the beginning of the week was usually less, but on Monday a good number of shoppers flocked to the area. While the weekend crowd touches 10 lakh persons around Deepavali time, traders estimate 70 per cent of that to have turned up on Monday. The local body elections came as a blessing in disguise for motorists too. As offices and schools remained closed, the busy traffic on a Monday morning was absent. Also, since TASMAC liquor outlets remained closed, the congestion that would have otherwise been caused by indiscriminate parking of vehicles in front of the outlets was not there.