A visible surge in voter enthusiasm took the polling percentage to impressive figures

A visible surge in voter enthusiasm took the polling percentage to an impressive 73 in Tamil Nadu where all the 39 Lok Sabha constituencies went to the polls on Thursday.

Polling was brisk and peaceful, barring a few stray incidents of violence. For the lone seat of the neighbouring Puducherry, the turnout was also as high as 82.15 per cent.

Across Tamil Nadu, where women voters marginally outnumber men , and over 11 lakh youths are first-time voters, a fiercely-contested multi-cornered contest generated varying predictions.

The 2009 Lok Sabha polls also recorded 73.05 per cent polling, but the most striking feature this time is the 29.15 per cent increase in the electors in the last five years.

Relatively higher polling (over 75 per cent) in northern districts where caste tension has been sharp seems to suggest a strong desire among caste-segmented voters to make their point about their wish-lists. Dharmapuri in the ‘Vanniyar belt’ in fact, indicated a sharp possible polarisation along caste lines, between the OBC ‘Vanniyars’ and the ‘Dalits,’ where the turnout reached nearly 81 per cent. The constituency had drawn the nation’s attention following the tragic love affair between a Dalit boy and a caste-Hindu girl in November 2012.

In contrast, South Chennai, a prestigious constituency, home to the educated and affluent middle class, polled only 58 per cent, the lowest in the State, showing signs of voter apathy. The turnout in the by-election to the Alandur Assembly constituency was a little over 63 per cent.

Addressing reporters, Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Kumar said the overall voting percentage in the Lok Sabha polls was traditionally lower than in the Assembly elections.

After casting her vote in the city, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said she would reserve her comments on the polls till the results were declared.

While DMK president M. Karunanidhi was optimistic that his party would do better than it did in the last polls, DMDK leader and major ally of the BJP in Tamil Nadu Vijayakant said, “victory is certain, thanks to good people’s wishes.”

PMK leader S. Ramadoss, who refrained from intensive campaigning in this election, predicted that the BJP-led NDA would get 20-25 seats in Tamil Nadu, as the people in the state were desperate for a change. His son and PMK candidate for Dharmpuri Anbumani said the NDA’s tally could even touch 35.