Thiruvananthapuram, Apr 20: Campaigning for the first phase of Assembly elections in Kerala, which goes to the polls on April 22, will end this evening.
A total of 536 candidates are in fray for 59 constituencies in the six southern districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, Kollam, Alappuzha, Idukki and Kottayam.
Election Commission sources said all arrangements had been made for peaceful conduct of the elections. Security had been tightened with additional Central para-military force personnel deployed in areas where sensitive booths were located, they said and added digital cameras would also be installed at such polling booths.
About 143 vulnerable booths had been identified in rural areas, including 39 sensitive ones, in Thiruvananthapuram. In Kollam, 173 vulnerable booths, including 20 sensitive booths. In Pathanamthitta, there are 46 vulnerable booths, including 10 sensitive ones and in Alappuzha, 117 vulnerable booths, including 32 sensitive ones.
There are 51 vulnerable booths, including 15 sensitive ones in Kottayam and Idukki has 45 vulnerable and 10 sensitive booths.
Prominent candidates from the ruling United Democratic Front(UDF), whose electoral fortunes would be decided in the first phase of polls are Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, his Cabinet colleagues K M Mani, K R Gouri, M V Raghavan, Babu Divakaran, C F Thomas, K C Venugopal, Adoor Prakash, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, N Sakthan, Deputy Speaker N Sundaran Nadar.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) Central Committee member M A Baby, State Committee member T M Thomas Issac, Students Federation of India(SFI) state president Sindhu Joy and former Assembly Speaker M Vijayakumar are the prominent Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidates who are seeking a mandate.
The first phase of elections had also gained another dimension with many rebels contesting against the official candidates and many of them posing a threat to both the UDF and the LDF. Former Forest Minister A Neelalohithadasan Nadar, who was suspended from the Janata Dal(S), decided to contest as an Independent after he was denied ticket from Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram.
K K Nair of the Congress, who represented Pathanamthitta eight times, was also in the fray against the official candidate K Sivadasan Nair.
Another constituency where the rebel posed a threat to the official candidate is Thiruvananthapuram West. KPCC executive member T Saratchandra Prasad refused to withdraw his nomination as an Independent in the constituency where he is pitted against Congress- ally Democratic Indira Congress (Karunakaran) candidate Shobana George.
As the campaigning progressed, top leaders of all major parties were in the state to campaign for their candidates.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today addressed an election campaign at Thiruvalla in Kottayam district.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi also addressed election meetings on April 18 in Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Kollam and Neyyattinkara for the first phase of the polls.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat was also here seeking votes for the Left candidates. Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh had campaigned for his party candidates in public meetings at Peroorkkada in hiruvananthapuram and Eravipuam in Kollam district yesterday.
There are about 27,031,826 electorates in six districts of which 14,245,468 are women.
The elections in the state will be held in three phases. In the second phase, 66 constituencies in Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram, Palakkad, Thrissur and Ernakulam, would go to the polls on April 29.
The third phase on May three, would involve only 15 constituencies in the northern districts of Kannur and Kasaragod.
Counting of votes would take place on May 11.