Voters flouting Covid protocols stress officials while Kerala prepares for second phase on Dec 10

The voting in the first phase has pointed to serious Covid protocol violations in many parts of the five districts, with voters and officials sharing faults at different locations
Election officers conducting their official duties donning protective gear
Election officers conducting their official duties donning protective gear@pravees (Twitter)

As the first phase of the Kerala local body polls concluded yesterday, the polling percentages had defied many expert conclusions and supercharged the alliances’ optimism. While many had claimed that the Covid-induced pandemic might hit polling percentages, the actual decrease seemed insignificant, While Alappuzha polled the highest, Idukki and Kollam followed suit. However, Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram were the least performers.

Compared to 2015, the five districts did poll less, however, any changes were easily attributable to the Covid scare. The difference, however, wasn’t significant and was surprisingly low when experts believed that the virus would scare people away from the polling booths. Averaging 72.67% in this election, the five districts had collectively averaged 75.74% in the 2015 elections. An important point to note, however, is that the State Election Commission had notified that the final figure could have slight variations, as final figures are yet to come.

The problem was that this is the first election in Kerala since Covid protocols have been in place, and thus enforcing the rules have been a hassle, according to many booth officers. People naturally crowd near the polling stations and many have reportedly arrived without masks. According to a few reports, the situation at the Thiruvananthapuram coastal belt seemed to have been a difficult condition to control, especially considering the Covid protocols in place. Many hadn’t been wearing masks, the voters stood close to each other and crowded near the locations in Valiyathura, Poonthura, Vizhinjam, and Poovar.

Reportedly, due to limited space in many of the booths, the officers had asked the voters to stand closer to each other to avoid crowding and blocking the roads

However, a few residents reported that social distancing wasn’t exactly an option in many of the booths. Due to limited space in many of the booths, the officers had asked the voters to stand closer to each other to avoid crowding and blocking the roads. Moreover, the Motor Vehicle Department and police officials had distributed facemasks to those who had arrived without any. The long queues were also visible in the urban polling stations within Thiruvananthapuram. The early morning surge in voters had created an optimistic idea that polling percentages might hit the previous levels. However, the count slowed around noon, and the percentage never caught up.

The Numbers

Alappuzha turned out the highest polling in this year with 77.23% as compared to 2015 (79.7%). Idukki followed suit with 74.56%, which was less than the 79.7% it got in 2015. Pathanamthitta fared the worst with 69.70% in this year compared to 72.50% in 2015, and Thiruvananthapuram with 69.76% in 2020 and 71.9% in the last election. Kollam recorded 73.41% turnout this year when the district had produced 74.9% turnout in 2015.

In the case of the Corporation polling, the numbers took a different meaning. The Corporations of Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram have been the sight of a triangular battle between the LDF, UDF, and BJP. Thiruvananthapuram has been the sight of a fierce face-off between the left incumbents and the BJP, who are so close to wrestling that position. Despite this, the Corporation polls so a dip in the numbers with Thiruvananthapuram not faring well in comparison. With 62.9% voters in 2015, the capital district saw only 59.73% polling this year. Meanwhile, Kollam recorded 66.06% this year as compared to 69.9% last time.

The Next Phase

With campaigning ending in Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, and Wayanad, the five districts gear up for polling on December 10 and today, the candidates are active in their silent campaigning. The Corporation elections in Thrissur and Kochi is set for a stiff competition same as Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam. Around 12,643 polling booths have been set up with 63,187 officers have been deployed for duty. Webcasting has been introduced at 473 problem booths.

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