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Kerala registers 43.91% voting till 1 p.m.
Kerala registers 43.91% voting till 1 p.m.

Thiruvananthapuram, April 23 (IANS) Technical glitches notwithstanding, close to half of the over 2 crore voters in Kerala cast their votes in the first six hours of polling till 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

All the 20 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state are going to the polls in the third phase of polling on Tuesday.

The average voter turnout till 1 p.m. was recorded at an impressive 43.91 per cent as people in large numbers queued up at different polling stations since early morning, an election official said.

In Wayanad, from where Congress President Rahul Gandhi is contesting, the turnout was an impressive 45.67 per cent.

According to the poll officials, Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) failed to function in some booths and were subsequently replaced. Many leaders, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, have expressed their concern over the faulty voting machines.

However, Kerala's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Teeka Ram Meena clarified that he had already informed everyone that if it rained a night before voting, the machines might take a while to be ready due to the humidity.

"This is not a state-wide problem, but happened only at a few places. The glitches have been rectified," said Meena.

Most of the state's top political leaders and film stars cast their votes in the morning session. Kerala Governor P. Sathasivam and his wife cast their votes in Thiruvananthapuram.

Vijayan, who was seen waiting in a queue with his family outside a booth in Kannur, said the fight this time was between the Left and the Congress-led UDF. 

"The BJP is not going to make any impact. It will finish not second, but third in all the constituencies," the Chief Minister said.

The leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala predicted a clean sweep for the Congress. "The ruling Vijayan government will take a severe beating," he said.

After casting his vote in Kozhikode, Kerala BJP President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai said that a few surprises would spring up when the results are announced.

Superstar Mammootty, who cast his vote in Kochi, encouraged the people to use their right to vote. "This is the only time people get to choose who will represent them," he said.

Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy cast his vote at his hometown Puthupally in Kottayam. "The United Democratic Front (UDF) will do very well as this time it's going to be 'vote against Modi in the Centre and against Vijayan in the state'," said Chandy.

Mocking Chandy's forecasts, CPI-M state Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said: "His predictions in earlier elections have all fallen flat. Just wait and watch, the Left will better its 2014 performance in the state." 

Hyderali Shihab Thangal, the state President of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), UDF's second biggest ally, was seen waiting in queue before polling started in Malappuram, where it has been raining heavily.

"Both our candidates, Kunhalikutty and E.T. Mohammed Basheer, as well as Rahul Gandhi will win with record margins. The Congress-led UDF will score an excellent victory," said Thangal.

Congress candidate Hibi Eden and his wife were the first voters at the Mamangalem polling booth in Ernakulam constituency. "We expect to come out with shining colours," Eden told the media.

Comedian and Lok Sabha MP Innocent, who is seeking a second term as the CPI-M-supported Independent candidate from Chalakudy constituency, was also spotted in the queue along with his family.

The Congress-led UDF candidate N.K. Premachandran and his wife cast their votes early in Kollam. "I've faced a lot of smear campaign, but I am confident that I will win easily," said Premachandran.

A record 227 candidates are trying their luck for Kerala's 20 Lok Sabha seats.

A total of 2,61,51,534 voters, including 1,34,66,521 women, 1,26,84,839 men and 174 belonging to the 'other' gender, will exercise their franchise in 24,970 polling stations spread across 14 districts.

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