Polling trends can make all the difference to results

With the ‘rainbow alliance’ forged by the BJP and the other major parties, DMK (having seat adjustments with a few Dalit and Muslim parties), AIADMK and Congress going it alone, it has triggered zone-wise variations in the Lok Sabha poll trends from Tamil Nadu. Here is a snapshot of the polling trends on Thursday, from the southern, western, central and northern zones that could make all the difference to the results.

While in the western belt, where eight Lok Sabha (LS) constituencies are at stake averaged 74 per cent polling, the refrain from voters across age-groups including youth and first-time voters was, “we want a change; a government that can provide a corruption-free administration.” Even in Muslim areas of Coimbatore, the need for a change at the Centre was echoed. A. Shajahan and Abdul Azeez said they were for change in government, “but one that would be democratic and treat all sections equally.”

Villagers in several hamlets in Coimbatore, Krishnagiri and Erode constituencies boycotted the poll to protest against lack of basic amenities, even as in one booth at Marudur in Erode, only one out of the 811 votes was cast.

In southern Tamil Nadu, polling passed off peacefully in all the 10 LS constituencies, barring a clash between Dalits and caste Hindus (Vanniyars) at Kariyampatti village near Nilakkottai in Dindigul district, leading to boycott of elections by the voters.

Amid several high-profile contestants in the fray including MDMK leader Vaiko, Congress’ Karti P Chidambaram, BJP State president Pon. Radhakrishnan and the anti-nuke activist, S.P. Udayakumar, polling averaged over 70 per cent though Madurai constituency witnessed a huge 10 per cent drop in polling on Thursday.

Initial figures put the polling percentage highest at Dindigul at 78.5. Dalits at Nadupatti and caste Hindus at Kariyampatti mostly stayed away from voting there, even as another two villages boycotted the polls in Sivaganga constituency.

The seven LS constituencies in the Central region, which covers most of the Cauvery delta area, witnessed brisk polling, notwithstanding the scorching summer sun. The polling was by and large peaceful except a few minor incidents. Villagers of Karuvidacheri in Ariyalur district (Chidambaram constituency) boycotted the polling to protest against non-retrieval of encroached government land by some private persons.

In Mayiladuthurai where senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar is contesting, a polling officer was recalled from Kovilpattu polling booth, following allegations that he cast a vote for a wrong symbol on behalf of a visually-disabled voter. The constituencies in the deltaic districts also recorded heavy voter turnout exceeding 70 per cent in each.

Significantly, in the northern districts – better known as the ‘Vanniyar belt’ in political parlance, constituencies like Vellore, Arakkonam, Tiruvannamalai and Arani have averaged over 75 per cent polling by 5 pm. In Dharmapuri, where the PMK’s youth wing leader, Anbumani Ramadoss, is fighting a high-stake battle, the polling percentage was among the highest in the State at nearly 81. This, observers say shows very robust voting by both the two major groups in this belt, the OBC Vanniyars and the Dalits, and thereby indicating a neck-and-neck race between the AIADMK, BJP-front and the DMK

Reporting by K. V. Prasad, Shastri Mallady, Syed Muthahar and Sruthisagar Yamunan