Assembly polls recorded highest voter turnout
Giving details of the assembly elections in five states, Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi said on Wednesday that in all states there was an all-time higher voter turnout. In fact, in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, it was the highest in the past 60 years, he said. In Tamil Nadu, there was an 11% increase from the last election while it was 3.04% in West Bengal. Women came out in large numbers to exercise their franchise in Kerala, Puducherry, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, he added. Quraishi said the Election Commission’s drive against use of black money intensified during the elections resulting in seizure of Rs 74.27 crore in cash. The maximum seizure — Rs 60.10 crore — was reported from TN, followed by Rs 8.35 crore in West Bengal and Rs 5.20 crore in Assam. The CEC said for the first time 8,820 overseas voters registered, out of whom 4,639 voted in Kerala, and one of them even contested from Thodupuzha in Idukki district in the state. Regarding the counting of votes on Friday, the CEC said the commission has set up 839 halls in 294 locations in the five states which went to the polls, in which 14.16 crore people — 20% of the country’s total electorate — voted in West Bengal, TN, Kerala, Puducherry and Assam. Quraishi said on Wednesday during the entire election process, vote was not sought on communal and caste lines. He listed “inducement of voters through distribution of money and in kind,”paid news, voter apathy, specially among youth and urban educated, and security arrangements in Naxal-hit areas as the major challenges that the EC encountered. He also said in some states most of the TV channels were owned by political parties that denied a level playing-field to others. He said the EC would come with a policy on this issue before the next election. On home minister P Chidambaram’s statement during the campaign that West Bengal was the “worst governed” state in terms of law and order, Quraishi said the home minister was expressing an opinion which was a widely held view in the country. “Probably, he was referring to that. We did not find anything noteworthy from the election point of view,” he said. Quraishi said the EC deployed security and held election in six phases, which pointed to law and order problem. The Left had complained to the EC about the home minister’s statement. As for results, Quraishi said the first one would be out by noon on Friday. An elaborate three-tier security arrangement had been put in place for the exercise, which would start at 8am, involving 43,982 officials and nearly 17,700 central security personnel, he added.