On account of Madurai’s annual Chithirai festival, polling in Madurai Lok Sabha constituency will be conducted till 8 pm on April 18.
Tamil Nadu’s Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo made the announcement on Monday. This means that while voters in all other constituencies in Tamil Nadu will vote from 7 am to 6 pm on April 18, Madurai voters will be allowed to vote for two extra hours.
The announcement comes days after the Election Commission of India ruled out the possibility of postponing the date of polling in Madurai due to Chithirai festival. In a statement filed in response to a petition filed by a Madurai resident, the Election Commission of India stated that postponing election in one constituency will pose practical difficulties and instead offered to extend the voting time by two hours in all polling booths across the constituency.
Madurai’s Chithirai festival is an annual event, celebrated in the Tamil month of Chithirai, which is April. Every year, re-enactments of events taken from Hindu mythology -- specifically on the events of goddess Meenakshi winning a war against evil, her marriage to lord Shiva, and her brother Azhagar's anger over the wedding, which ended in him entering the river Vaigai -- happen in and around the premises of Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple. The festival attracts lakhs of devotees from across the world and a good share of them from southern districts of Tamil Nadu. This year, the Meenakshi pattabhishekam (crowning of the goddess as empress) will be held on April 15, the divine wedding on April 17, the temple chariot festival on April 18 and the event where Kallazhagar enters Vaigai river, on April 19.
The issue surrounding the election date began hours after the Chief Election Commissioner announced the dates of Lok Sabha polls on March 10. As people started posting the coincidence of dates on social media, the Madurai bench of Madras high court also questioned the keenness of the Election Commission of India to ensure 100 percent voter turnout while it was hearing the petition.