Tamil Nadu rural local body polls: First round ends, over 74% voter turnout recorded

The second phase of the polls is scheduled to take place on October 9 in 28 districts. The counting of votes will take place on October 12.

The first phase of the rural local body polls in Tamil Nadu, which concluded on Wednesday, witnessed a voter turnout of 74.37 per cent, the Election Commission (EC) said.

Polling, which started at 7 am and ended at 6 pm was held in 9 districts. Voting was overall peaceful with a few instances of boycott, delay in polling, and violence being recorded in some of the districts. 79,433 candidates were in fray for 23,998 posts. In the first phase, the polls were held to elect 78 district panchayat ward members, 755 panchayat union ward members, 1,577 village panchayat presidents, and 12,252 panchayat ward members.

The second phase of the polls is scheduled to take place on October 9 in 28 districts. The counting of votes will take place on October 12.

According to EC, while Kancheepuram witnessed a voter turnout of 80 per cent, Chengalpet saw 67 per cent, Villupuram 81.36 per cent, Kallakurichi 72 per cent, Vellore 67 per cent, Ranipet 81 per cent, Tirupathur 78 per cent, Tirunelveli 69 per cent and Tenkasi 74 per cent.

Although the last one hour was reserved for Covid-19 patients and those with symptoms, the turnout was considerably low. At certain polling booths, complaints were raised about the lack of facilities for the physically challenged people. Voters claimed that ramp facilities were not available.

In Devariyampakkam village in Kancheepuram district, a polling booth at a government school was inundated owing to rains for the last two days. Although the water was cleared, people had to wait for a long time to cast their vote.

At Paapakudi union in Tirunelveli district, voter turnout was poor till 11 am owing to rains. It, however, gained pace in the second half of the day. Lack of social distancing was witnessed and many were seen without masks.

The residents of Ammundi village panchayat near Katpadi in Vellore district reportedly boycotted the polls as the village panchayat was reserved for SC candidates this year. There are about 2,049 voters in this village and as many as five polling booths were set up. However, residents neither turned up for voting, nor did they apply for the rest of the posts. They had staged a protest earlier in September demanding the government to reclassify the village panchayat into a general local body, claiming that the majority of their residents don’t belong to Dalit or Scheduled Caste community. Few people even hoisted black flags in front of their residences in protest against the polls.

Meanwhile, a reporter and his crew members of a popular Tamil news channel were reportedly attacked at a polling booth in Ramalai near Vellore district by the agents and locals when they were covering the final stages of the polling. The Chennai Press Club has condemned the incident and demanded the government to arrest those responsible at the earliest.

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