Chennai, May 7 : As the din and bustle raised in the high voltage campaign settled down, Tamil Nadu goes to the polls tomorrow to elect the 12th assembly, amid an unprecedented security cover.
In one of the toughest and closest contests in the state's political history, more than 4.64 crore voters, including 2.34 crore women are expected to exercise their franchise to decide the electoral fate of 2,586 candidates. The candidates include a record 160 women and 1,222 independents.
Almost all the constituencies are witnessing a multi-cornered contest, as besides the ruling AIADMK and opposition DMK-led fronts, a number of other parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party and Vijayakanth's Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) have fielded candidates.
But for a couple of constituencies, the main battle would be only between the ruling AIADMK-led Democratic People's Alliance (DPA) and the six-party DMK-led Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA).
Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, her Ministerial colleagues, DMK Chief M Karunanidhi, senior DMK leaders K Anbazhagan, party Deputy General Secretary M K Stalin and Treasurer Arcot N Veerasamy, actor-politician Vijayakanth are some of the star candidates, who are testing their electoral fortunes.
To ensure peaceful conduct of the polls, a record number of 196 companies of para-military forces, including armed forces, have been deployed on poll duty . They have taken positions in all the sensitive areas of the State. Authorities have made elaborate arrangements for smooth conduct of the polls. Nearly three lakh people have been deployed for election duty, of which 2.34 lakhs would be pressed into poll duty, official sources said.
Majority of the polling personnel have been drafted from the Central, State governments and public sector undertakings and local bodies. There would be a mix of personnel of different departments in a polling station and most of them are expected to reach the polling stations by tonight.
A total number of 51,534 polling stations have been set up the sources said adding that a total number of 66,000 Electronic Voting Machines(EVM) have been despatched to the polling booths. The authorities have also printed 11,99,200 ballot papers.
''All the polling materials required for the elections had already been procured and supplied to the respective district election officers,'' Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta said.
In some polling booths, ramps have been laid to help the physically challenged voters to visit the booths with ease and exercise their franchise.
In the city, braille ballot papers were made available for the benefit of the visually challenged voters to cast their votes without the assistance of any person.