Kerala elections polls
Voters stand in the queue to cast their ballots at a polling booth during the Kerala Assembly election, in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala’s voting percentage appeared certain to hit the high 70s or more as voters turned up in large numbers from morning to cast their votes in the state assembly election on Tuesday. By 2pm, the polling percentage across the state had crossed 50 per cent.

Kerala will complete its polling on Tuesday, in a single phase. There are 957 candidates in the fray and a total of 27.4 million voters who will elect 140 members to the state assembly.

Meanwhile, the Nair Service Society general secretary G. Sukumaran Nair and Bharatiya Janata Party veteran O. Rajagopal dropped political bombshells on Tuesday that may seriously impact voter behaviour and party morale.

NSS rakes up temple issue

In a shock setback for the ruling Left Democratic Front, NSS chief Sukumaran Nair said “Sabarimala Ayyappa devotees are still bitter about the events that hurt their faith”, adding that people in the state expected a change for the good.

He said there should be “a government that stood for values and faith”. Nair’s statement on voting day irked the ruling LDF, whose law minister A.K. Balan said he couldn’t believe that Nair would make such a statement.

The protests regarding women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple had been a major political issue in Kerala in 2019 and has been a strong political plank for the Congress and the BJP in Kerala.

BJP state president K. Surendran who is contesting from two constituencies this time, responded to Nair’s message saying the NSS chief had given a clear message to the people.

A shocker for BJP

In another politically loaded statement, O. Rajagopal, the BJP MLA from Nemom constituency, the only assembly seat that his party has ever won in Kerala, said he had “no connection to the constituency other than being the MLA there once”.

The MLA’s indifferent-sounding statement is a major setback for the BJP at a time when the party is trying to defend its Nemom seat as well as garner more seats in Kerala.

This time, the BJP has fielded Kummanam Rajasekharan at Nemom, who is pitted against Congress leader K. Muraleedharan.

There was an incident of stone pelting at the vehicle of Muraleedharan this week, allegedly by BJP supporters. When asked about that incident, Rajagopal said “it might be true”, sending the BJP camp into more confusion over the strange statements from the party’s first MLA in the state.

Fronts bullish

In early poll surveys there were indications that the LDF would retain power, but as polling day approached the Opposition United Democratic Front is believed to have covered much ground, mainly by highlighting corruption cases reported during the LDF regime.

The BJP is also hopeful that it can improve its seat position from the single seat that it now has.

A new political outfit in the polls this time, Kochi-based Twenty20 is contesting from eight constituencies, all in Ernakulam district.