In an election that appeared to have no driving issue to begin with, Tamil Nadu voters turned out in massive numbers to exercise their democratic right at many places braving the rain. At 6pm on Monday , the turnout for 232 constituencies stood at 73.76%, as per the Election Commission. This figure is likely to go up by a few percentage points when the final tally is computed on Tuesday .
Though in percentage point terms the turnout is lower than the 77.8% registered in 2011, in absolute terms, at least 60 lakh more people have voted. Compared to 2011, TN now has one crore more voters. The turnout percentage during the 2014 Lok Sabha poll was 73.67%.
In Chennai and some urban areas, voting began on a brisk note but slowed down as the day progressed. At 6pm, Chennai clocked 60.6% while the figure in the last election was nearly 68%. “The lower figure for Chennai can be attributed to general urban apathy and the extended weekend was an opportunity for residents, many of whom are migrants, to travel,“ says Ravindran Duraisamy , a political analyst. For others in the city, this was a short holiday they could spend with their children on their summer vacation,“ he said.
In Chennai, the rain made only a token presence -enough to remind residents of the flood -but elsewhere in the state, the downpour was significant enough to force many voters to stay indoors.
Barring Chennai, northern districts clocked a higher turnout percentage than southern districts. For instance, Vellore recorded 78.5%, Villupuram clocked 80%, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram logged 71%, and Cuddalore, 78.64%. In the south, Kanyakumari polled only 66%, Ramanathapuram recorded 68% and Sivaganga, 69.8%.
Rural districts did better than urban ones. “While the turnout in rural districts like Dharmapuri and Ariyalur has been higher at 83%, urban districts led by Chennai have recorded lower turnout,“ said TN chief electoral officer Rajesh Lakhoni.
Pennagaram constituency in Dharmapuri district recorded 85% turnout, highest in the state.
In the first two hours of polling, Tamil Nadu recorded 18.3%. Few people ventured out in southern and central districts due to incessant rains. Voting pace was sluggish even up to 11am as only 25.2% was recorded. But between 11am and 1pm, the figure jumped to 42.1%, and by the time it was 3pm, the turnout stood at 63.7%.“Turnout after 3pm became sluggish and not many people were standing in the queue when the polling came to an end,“ said Lakhoni.
The EC did not agree to the demand of many parties that polling time should be extended to 7pm because of the rain.