Home Politics Kerala Assembly election 2021: Voting to begin at 7 am tomorrow; three-cornered...

Kerala Assembly election 2021: Voting to begin at 7 am tomorrow; three-cornered fight between LDF, UDF, NDA likely

The total electorate in the state includes 1,32,83,724 male voters, 1,41,62,025 female voters and 290 transgenders, according to Election Commission figures

The Kerala Assembly election will be held in a single phase tomorrow, (Tuesday, 6 April). A total of 140 seats will go to polls across the state, and a three-cornered fight between the incumbent Left-led LDF, the Congress-led UDF, and the BJP is likely.

Follow coverage on Assembly election 2021 here

After weeks-long stormy campaign sessions, marathon rallies and mammoth roadshows, Kerala is all set to go to polls on Tuesday with 2.74 crore voters exercising their franchise to decide the fate of 957 candidates.

The total electorate in the state includes 1,32,83,724 male voters, 1,41,62,025 female voters and 290 transgenders, according to Election Commission figures.

An array of ministers and several sitting MLAs from both the traditional coalitions- the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Congress-headed United Democratic Front (UDF) are seeking another term in the April 6 polls.

Timings of polling

In the Kerala assembly polls, voting will start at 8 am and end at 6 pm.

Polling to be held amid tight security

As per Hindustan TimesKerala Police chief Loknath Behra said that all security arrangements have been finalised for the smooth conduct of the assembly polls with a total of 59,292 police personnel and a drone system to detect crowds and obstruction of voters in the hinterlands on polling day. Behra had said that the entire state will be divided into special security zones and police will be deployed under the leadership of senior officers.

Kerala Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena had earlier said that 140 companies of central forces have reached the state for the election, adding that the poll body is fully geared up to conduct free, fair, independent and credible election in the state.

“Detailed guidelines have been issued for the political parties, for voters, officers to maintain the social distancing as well as to provide all the CovidD kits at the polling booths,” he said.

The central forces include personnel from CISF, CRPF and BSF. Central forces, specially trained to deal with violent mobs, have also been provided with weapons, including automatic rifles. This is the first time that so many central forces are deployed for elections. The security arrangements are being made under the leadership of the district police chiefs, dividing 481 police stations in the state into 142 election subdivisions.

Key candidates

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, health minister KK Shailaja, Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, Power Minister M M Mani and Higher Education Minister KK Jaleel are among the prominent personalities trying their electoral luck from the ruling side.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, senior leaders K Muraleedharan, PT Thomas and Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan are among those contesting from the UDF fold.

The election is crucial for an array of BJP leaders including former Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan, ‘Metroman’ E Sreedharan, who joined the saffron party recently, state president K Surendran, senior leader Shobha Surendran, Rajya Sabha members Suresh Gopi and K J Alphons and others.

The 6 April poll is equally significant for Kerala Congress (M) chief Jose K Mani who recently snapped decades-long ties with the UDF and joined hands with the Left front.

It would be a litmus test, especially for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi personally as he had camped in the state for several days and taken part in dozens of corner meetings and rallies across Kerala to campaign for the UDF.

The ruling LDF is hoping to retain power for a second consecutive term breaking the state’s four-decades-old trend of alternating between the UDF every five years.

While the UDF is all confident to form their government when the results are out on 2 May, the BJP-led NDA is leaving no stone unturned to garner a maximum number of seats to become a decisive force in the state’s rule.

Since the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced the poll dates on 26 February, Kerala had been witnessing unprecedented competitive spirit between all the three political fronts-from carrying out a maximum number of rallies and meetings to bringing in all possible national leaders to woo the voters.

In the place of one or two prominent national figures usually, the state this time saw multiple visits by leaders right from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and a dozen of their cabinet colleagues including Nirmala Sitharaman, Rajnath Singh and Prahlad Joshi and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath to Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Sachin Pilot, A K Antony, Salman Khurshid and so on.

Populist manifestos

The release of the election manifesto also drew much attention this time as the three fronts came out with populist promises including pension for housewives, raising of welfare pensions, free gas cylinders for the poor, free laptops for economically backward students and so on.

To consolidate votes of the majority community and keep devotees with them, the BJP even promised in their manifesto a law to contain alleged ‘love jihad’ and even state legislation to protect the customs and traditions of the Sabarimala temple.

The topics of faith, religion, development and welfare have taken a centre-stage throughout the campaigns.

The state witnessed how the ruling LDF strived hard to bring the focus of the poll debate on the government’s achievements in the development and welfare fronts in the last five years and its much-celebrated COVID-19 and flood management.

But, the Congress-UDF and BJP-NDA have tried their best to make a topic of discussion the Sabarimala women entry issue and the controversial gold and dollar smuggling cases, in which the Chief Minister’s office, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan and some other ministers were facing allegations.

The LDF, who projected themselves as the sole saviour of minority communities especially in Muslim-dominated Malabar (north Kerala) districts during the campaign, is calculating that their votes would be consolidated en-mass in their favour.

They also accused the Congress of adopting a soft stand towards the Hindutva agenda to pick a hole in their vote-bank.

The Congress was seen reaching out to prominent figures and institutions related to Hindu, Christian and Muslim religions to ensure their support.

Besides wooing the majority of community votes by promising a law to check ‘love jihad’ and protect the tradition of Sabarimala, the BJP also tried to reach out to the Christian community during the campaign.

Many national and state leaders of the saffron party could be seen meeting the cardinal, bishops and church leaders during the period.

Since the 1980s, the LDF and UDF have alternatively formed the government with neither able to gain back-to-back victories in Kerala. If the ruling front can manage to buck the trend in the state this time, it will be history.

With inputs from PTI

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