Barring reports of sporadic violence, the first phase of elections to local bodies on Monday went off peacefully, witnessing higher turnout in rural areas than in urban parts of the State. The overall turnout was put at about 75 per cent of the 2.7 crore eligible voters.
The initial phase covered 10 municipal corporations, 60 municipalities, 259 town panchayats and 191 panchayat unions.
The highest voter turnout in municipal corporations was witnessed in Salem and Tirupur with 68 per cent each while the lowest was in Chennai with 48 per cent. In town panchayats and municipalities, 72 per cent voting was recorded. It was 78 per cent in village panchayats.
In Chennai, Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Jayalalithaa and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi exercised their franchise in booths at Stella Maris College and a Gopalapuram school. While Ms Jayalalithaa expressed the hope that voters would again repose confidence in her party, Mr. Karunanidhi criticised the government for failing to ensure proper recording of the polls by placing web cameras in booths.
Chennai, which had witnessed unprecedented violence in the 2006 local body elections, saw relatively peaceful polling, though there were some incidents. In the morning, near a polling booth in Makkees Garden of Thousand Lights, a woman member of the AIADMK, Kutti alias Savithri (35), was attacked with a sickle. She suffered injuries on the head and arm. At 2-30 p.m., a mob ransacked a polling booth on the premises of the staff quarters of the Reserve Bank of India on Poonamallee High Road and damaged electronic voting machines.
Addressing a press conference later in the day, S. Ayyar, State Election Commissioner (SEC), referred to the submission of a petition by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam seeking re-poll in several booths of nine wards in Chennai. He denied there was any booth-capturing in the city.
Incident-free voting was experienced in the western region. In the Coimbatore Municipal Corporation, about 60 per cent of the 10.45 lakh electors turned up to elect their representatives. Polling in 78 town panchayats and 17 municipalities of the western belt was in the range of 80 to 85 per cent.
In central parts of the State, the turnout varied from 70 to 80 per cent. The maximum of 82 per cent was witnessed in Pudukottai and Karur districts. About 63 per cent of the 5.90 lakh voters in the Tiruchi Corporation cast their vote. In Nagapattinam district, police resorted to mild lathicharge to disperse DMK workers who alleged irregularities in polling at two places in Vazhuvoor village panchayat near Mayiladuthurai.
In the southern region, Madurai, which too had witnessed violence five years ago, recorded peaceful polling this time. The Madurai Corporation saw 63 per cent polling. Dindigul accounted for the highest percentage of polling at 79. In both Paramakudi, which had witnessed police firing, and Kudankulam, which has been seeing public protests against the nuclear plant, the voter turnout was normal, according to initial reports.