Thiruvananthapuram | The stage is set for one of the fiercest political contests in Kerala as 1.84 lakh voters will go to the polling booths in the Aruvikkara Assembly constituency tomorrow to decide the fate of 16 candidates.
The by-election in the rural constituency in the capital district was necessitated following the death of Assembly Speaker G Karthikeyan.
The constituency is witnessing a three-cornered contest with Congress fielding Mr Karthikeyan’s son K S Sabarinathan, the Marxist-led Left Democratic Front nominating former assembly speaker M Vijayakumar and the BJP putting up former Union Minister of State for Railways O Rajagopal.
After a month-long high-decibel campaign, activists of various political parties engaged in distributing polling slips and house-to-house visits today in a last minute attempt to garner the maximum number of votes.
Poll officials and security personnel have already arrived in Aruvikkara, located on the banks of the Karamana River, some 15 km from the capital city. The place is also known for a small dam that provides drinking water to the city. Tribals and plantation labourers formed a major parts of the electorate in the constituency bordering Thirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.
”All the preparations for the by elections to the Aruvikkara constituency are complete,’ District collector A Kowsigan said here.
Altogether, 1,84,223 voters, including 97,535 women and 86,688 men, are eligible to exercise their franchise. There are 153 polling booths, in addition to one auxiliary booth in the constituency. Voting will take place from 0700 to 1700 hrs tomorrow and counting of votes will take place from 0800 hrs on Sri Swathi Thirunal College of Music in the city on coming Tuesday.
A total of 16 candidates will be in contention. In each polling booth, there will be one control unit and two ballot units. The first ballot unit will have the names of all the 16 candidates and the second one will have just the NOTA option. The photographs of all the candidates will be displayed along with their names and symbols in the electronic voting machines (EVM)s as well as the postal ballot papers.
An SMS-based poll monitoring facility has been arranged this time to ensure poll updates on voter turnout every one hour.
The verdict of the keenly-contested bypoll is crucial for all the three main contestants as it is considered as a semi final for the elections to the local bodies later this year and Assembly elections next year. It is also crucial for the survival of the Oommen Chandy Government which enjoyed only a wafer-thin majority in the 140-member state Assembly.
While the Congress will be trying to retain the seat held for the past 24 years, it is a do-or-die situation for the CPI(M)-led coalition which lost earlier two by elections during the tenure of the UDF Government. The BJP is in a desperate attempt to open its account in the state Assembly.
The UDF was seeking votes on the strength of the developmental activities initiated by the Oommen Chandy Government during the past four years. On the other hand, the LDF was trying to capitalise on the denting image of the UDF which was on a sticky wicket due to the alleged involvement of ministers in bar bribery case and solar scam. The BJP was highlighting the development initiatives of the Narendra Modi Government at the Centre.
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