The first phase of local body polls in Kerala, held for five districts on Tuesday, witnessed a high voter turnout despite the prevailing COVID-19 situation. As per the data from the state Election Commission, as of 6 pm, a turnout of 72.03% was recorded in the state. Elections were held in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Idukki in the first phase. The district with the highest turnout as per the data was Alappuzha (76.42%), followed by Idukki (73.99%) and Kollam (72.79%). Thiruvananthapuram (69.07%) and Pathanamthitta (69.33%) districts recorded the lowest turnout in the first phase of the polls.
Compared to the previous local body elections, the total polling in the state during the first phase is fairly high, especially given the COVID-19 scenario. Since 2000, the state has reportedly seen an upward curve in voter turnouts: the number grew from 66.1% in 2000 and 70.3% in 2005, to 76.3% and 77.7% in 2010 and 2015 respectively.
Around 50% of the overall polling was recorded by late afternoon on Tuesday. This election marks the first time that Kerala went to the polls since the outbreak of the pandemic. The election was held by abiding by the COVID-19 protocols. Voters were advised to strictly follow physical distancing, and had to wear masks. Sanitisers were compulsorily used before entering and exiting the polling stations. Meanwhile, there were also reports stating that physical distancing norms were not strictly followed, at least in certain polling booths.
People who are in quarantine, as well as COVID-19 patients, have been classified as â€śspecial votersâ€ť to ensure that they are able cast their votes. The last hour of the polling day, and once all the other voters have finished, is reserved for the special voters to cast their votes. They were instructed to wear Personal Protective Equipment, and officers in the booths designated for the special voters were instructed to do the same. Kerala has over 59,000 active cases of COVID-19 so far.
Special voter in PPE casting votes
11,225 polling stations were set up across the five districts that went to the polls in the first phase. The electorate included 46,68,209 women, 41,58,341 men and 70 transgender persons.
Meanwhile, the second phase of the election will be held on December 10 in Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad and Wayanad districts. The third and last phase of polling will be held at Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kasargod and Kannur on December 14.
The local body polls, held just months away from the state assembly elections, serves as a litmus test for political parties in Kerala. In the 2015 local body polls, the Left Democratic Front won around 60% of the total seats, followed by Congress, while the BJP won 1,200 seats out of around 21,000 seats.
(With inputs from IANS)