Polling for the General Elections for 38 Lok Sabha seats and by-elections for 18 Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu was held on Thursday without any major law and order issues reported in the state. A voter turnout of 69.55 per cent (till 6 pm) was reported by the Election Commission for the parliamentary constituencies. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the voter turn out was 73.74 per cent.
Similarly, 71.62 per cent of the voters cast their vote in the by-elections for 18 Assembly seats being held simultaneously, as against 74.24 per cent cast during the 2016 Assembly elections. The final numbers have not been announced for both the Lok Sabha elections and the Assembly by-polls.
Polling in Madurai Parliamentary constituency will be held till 8 pm, as the annual festival "Chithirai Thiruvizha" is taking place at Madurai's Meenakshi Amman Temple. The final voter turnout will be announced only after the polling is over in this constituency.
Polling started at 7 am, with a very low percentage. One of the key reasons was fault in voting machines. Confusion over allowing voters to cast votes without voting slips was also cited as a reason.
The Election Commission said that around 375 faulty Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and 766 faulty Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines were replaced across the state after the polling started. Voters from various parts of the state also complained that their names were missing from the electoral list, even though they had not changed their address in the past.
About 5.8 crore voters were eligible to decide the fate of 822 candidates in the Lok Sabha elections. While there were reports of fights breaking out between party cadres in some parts of the state (Ariyalur district), no major law and order issue was reported, said Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo.
The by-poll results for the 22 Assembly seats are critical for the AIADMK government led by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, as almost 22 seats in the Assembly are vacant and the government needs to win four to 10 seats to survive. For DMK President M K Stalin and AMMA leader T T V Dhinakaran also, this is an important election to prove their authority in the state. The election, after the demise of former Chief Ministers J Jayalalithaa of AIADMK and M Karunanidhi of DMK, is important for all these leaders to establish themselves among the public.
The 22 vacancies were caused by the disqualification of 18 pro-Dhinakaran MLAs, death of Karunanidhi and two AIADMK MLAs, and the disqualification of an AIADMK minister by the High Court, following his conviction in a rioting case. Polling for four constituencies has been scheduled to take place on May 19, before the counting on May 23.
At present, the ruling AIADMK has 113 members (excluding the Speaker) and its rival, the DMK-led alliance, has 97 MLAs, including eight from the Congress and one from the IUML. Dhinakaran is the lone independent MLA. If the DMK wins 21 seats in the by-polls, it would be in a position to form a government along with its allies, claiming a majority of 118 in the 234-member Assembly.
The EPS government can consider itself safe if it manages to win even 10 seats. Of the 113 members, the loyalty of five lie with the Dhinakaran group though they have not been disqualified yet. So effectively, Palaniswamy government has the support of 108 MLAs, and by winning ten seats he can reach the majority mark of 118. Stalin has to win 21 seats to dislodge the present government.
The election has seen a huge inflow of unaccounted money, according to the cash seizures reported by the ECI. In Tamil Nadu, the total seizure of unaccounted valuables and cash till April 17 stood at Rs 514.57 crore, out of a total of Rs 2,628.432 crore seized across the country.
Tamil Nadu is the second highest after Gujarat, where the money seized is around Rs 543.84 crore. While Rs 390 crore were seized in the National Capital Region of Delhi, in Andhra Pradesh, Rs 216 crore were seized till April 17. In Tamil Nadu, Rs 208.27 crore in cash, liquor worth Rs 3.37 crore, drugs and narcotics worth Rs 0.38 crore were seized. Around 1667 kg of precious metals including gold, silver etc, worth Rs 294.38 crore, were also seized apart from Rs 8.17 crore worth of other items and freebies.