Assembly polls: Democratic day for Kerala

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Thiruvananthapuram, Apr 12: Kerala is going to polls on Wednesday, Apr 12 to elect 140 members of the state Assembly after an acrimonious campaign marred by sporadic clashes in the concluding moments between workers of ruling CPI(M) led LDF and opposition Congress-headed UDF, the main contenders for power.

The electoral battle is intense in all the 140 segments between UDF and LDF with no wave is palpable in favour of either of the coalitions.

In at least two segments in up-north and down-south BJP has been able to make the contest three-cornered.

The concluding phase of the campaign had been unusually acrimonious with leaders from both sides trading charges, which at times slipped into the level of personal attacks.

After remaining peaceful mostly, the scene witnessed widespread clashes in the dying moments of the campaign in which several persons were injured including minister and LDF candidate V Surendran Pillai.

Chief Minister and CPI(M) veteran V S Achuthanandan has been the star-campaigner of the LDF.Congress leader and Defence Minister A K Antony was on the forefront of UDF camaign addressing scores of meetings for 11 days at a stretch.

National leaders, who came to address election meetings included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, BJP leader L K Advani, AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi and Chief Ministers Mawyawai and Narendra Modi.

In 2006, LDF won 98 seats and UDF 42, which was almost the reveral of 2001 tally, living upto to the state's reputation of alternating between the two coalitions every five years.

In the initial stages, UDF appeared to have a clear edge in view of its splendid performance in the Lok Sabha and civic polls by Congress and its allies. As the campaign gained momentum LDF succeeded in taking the fight to the UDF camp.

High profile candidates in the fray include Achuthanandan (Malampuzha), UDF's Chief Ministerial probable Oomen Chandy (Puthupally), KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala (Harippad), CPI(M) polit bureau member Kodiyeri Blakrishnan (Thalassery), Muslim League leader P K Kunhalikutty (Vengara), Kerala Congress (M) supremo K M Mani (Pala) and senior BJP leader O Rajagopal (Nemom).

Elections this time are also significant for Kerala as these are the first polls after NRIs got voting rights.

However, only 8862 NRIs have registered as voters while an estimated 2.2 million Keralites are working abroad, mostly in Gulf countries.

A total of 971 candidates are in the fray, a majority of them independents. The state has a total electorate of 2.31 crore. According to Chief Eelectoral Officer Nalini Netto, 3703 polling stations have been identified as sensitive.

PTI

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