Kerala will go to poll on Thursday in 20 Parliamentary constituencies spread across 14 districts as the state joins the third phase of general elections to the 16th Lok Sabha.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Nalini Netto on Wednesday said the poll machinery was all set for election in the state that has over 2.42 crore voters. A total of 269 candidates — including 27 women — are in the fray. Elections in all the constituencies will be held on Thursday.
On Wednesday, election materials were transported to various locations from about 140 distribution centres.
More than one lakh polling staff will be on duty across the state on Thursday.
Netto said 55 companies of central forces were already in the state in connection with the election and six more companies would be deployed for the storage of polled Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Kerala will have about 52,000 policemen including 5,000 from other states.
As polling begins at 7 am, the state will witness close contests between the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the opposition CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) with the BJP also putting up a stiff challenge in some of the constituencies.
The UDF had registered a thumping victory in the 2009 election, winning 16 of the 20 seats. Of the 20 MPs from Kerala, 18 are seeking re-election. The Congress has fielded 11 of its 13 sitting MPs while the CPM has fielded all its four MPs. Two MPs of the Indian Union Muslim League and one Kerala Congress MP are also contesting the election.
The UDF list includes six Union Ministers — K V Thomas, Mullappally Ramachandran, Shashi Tharoor, K C Venugopal, Kodikunnil Suresh and E Ahammed — and AICC spokesperson P C Chacko.
The Election Commission has put in place an elaborate security system for storing the polled EVMs for over a month, the CEO said. The EC has identified 2,126 polling stations in the state as “critical”. The critical stations are largely spread over the northern districts of Kasaragod, Kannur and Kozhikode.
These polling stations will be monitored through the presence of Central Armed Police Forces, state police, micro-observers or web-casting. A total of 389 polling stations including 173 in Kannur will be covered through web-casting.