Puducherry, May 16: Polling commenced at 7 AM today in the Union Territory of Puducherry to elect 30 members to the territorial Assembly. Voters turned up at the booths armed with Electoral Photo Identity cards as well as voter slips issued by the election authorities.
The 9.41 lakh voters, of whom 4.94 lakh are women, are spread over the 30 segments in Puducherry, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam, and will decide the electoral and political prospects of 344 contestants including 96 independents.
Important candidates in the fray are Chief Minister and AINRC founder N Rangasamy seeking re-election from Indira Nagar segment, Leader of the Opposition and former Chief Minister V Vaithilingam (Cong) seeking to retain Kamaraj Nagar segment, PCC leader A Namassivayam seeking to retain Villianoor and Speaker of Puducherry Assembly V Sabapathy contesting again from Ariyankuppam.
Four cabinet colleagues of Rangasamy-- P R Siva, T Thiagarajan, P Rajavelu and N G Panneerselvam are seeking to retain their respective seats as AINRC nominees. Rangasamy's other cabinet colleague, M Chandrakasu has opted out of the poll battle citing health reasons.
But his daughter Chandrapriyanka is contesting as AINRC nominee in Neduncadu reserved segment in Karaikal. Former Home Minister P Kannan, who joined AIADMK in February this year after quitting Congress, is crossing swords in Raj Bhavan segment with Congress nominee and former Education Minister K Lakshminarayanan. Of all the constituencies, Oulgaret segment has the maximum number of 17 candidates.
AINRC, BJP and PMK are going it alone in the polls while Congress and DMK have firmed up an alliance. While Congress is contesting from 21 segments, DMK is contesting the rest. Former Health Minister E Valsaraj and former Revenue Minister Malladi Krishna Rao (both Congress) are seeking to retain Mahe (an enclave in Kerala) and Yanam (an enclave in Andhra Pradesh) constituencies respectively.
For the first time Voters Verifiable Print Audit Trail machines are being used in three of the 30 segments --Uppalam, Orleanpet in Puducherry and Karaikal (south). There are 930 polling stations in the Union Territory.