Erode East bypoll sees higher turnout than 2021, amid tight security

South First witnessed several irregularities, like gold coins promised or distributed by the DMK, which is currently in power in Tamil Nadu.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Feb 28, 2023 | 12:55 AMUpdated Feb 28, 2023 | 12:59 AM

Erode East bypoll sees higher turnout than 2021, amid tight security

Except for a few minor scuffles, the bypoll for the Erode East Assembly constituency went off peacefully on Monday, 27 February, with a voter turnout of 74.79 percent, which is 5.21 percentage points higher than in the last Assembly elections, held in 2021.

In the poll for electing the representative for the seat, following the demise of the incumbent MLA Evera Thirumagan, a total of 2,26,898 people were eligible to vote. This included 1,10,713 men, 1,16,140 women and 23 transgendered persons.

Of them. 1,70,192 voters — 82,138 men, 88,037 women and 17 transgender persons exercised their franchise.

A total of 238 polling stations used 1,430 ballot units, 286 control units, and 310 voter-verifiable paper audit trails (VVPATs) for the election.

Nearly 2,500 police personnel and paramilitary forces, including the Central Industrial Security Forces (CISF), Railway Protection Special Force (RPSF) and Indo-Tibetan Border Force, were deployed to maintain the law and order situation.

Additional forces were deployed in the 34 booths identified as vulnerable. Further, 800 armed policemen were given security.

Two general observers — Rajkumar Yadav and Suresh Kumar Chadive — were appointed by the Election Commission of India (ECI).

The election was conducted by District Election Officer H. Krishnan Unni, with 286 presiding officers, 858 polling officers, 62 additional officers, and 286 micro-observers.

Congress heavyweight EVKS Elangovan, on behalf of the DMK alliance — which has an upper hand in the fray — contested against 76 candidates, including the AIADMK’s two-time MLA KS Thennarasu, Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) candidate Menaka Navaneethan. and S Anand of the Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazhagam (DMDK).

Irregularities come to the fore

Though there had been a few incidents of violence reported between the DMK and the NTK and also the DMK and the AIADMK during the campaign, no such incident happened on the day of polling.

On Monday morning, when AIADMK candidate Thennarasu and the DMDK’s Anand went to cast their votes, DMK booth agents demanded that they remove their shoulder towels, which bore their party’s colours.

Congress candidate EVKS Elangovan cast his vote at a booth on Cutchery Street during the Erode East bypolls in Tamil Nadu on Monday, 27 February, 2023. (Supplied)

Congress candidate EVKS Elangovan cast his vote at a booth on Cutchery Street during the Erode East bypolls in Tamil Nadu on Monday, 27 February, 2023. (Supplied)

Meanwhile, Congress candidate EVKS Elangovan cast his vote in a booth at Cutchery Street, and told reporters that he would win the poll with a vast majority.

AIADMK candidate Thennarasu told South First that a few election officers on duty collided with the ruling party and allowed canvassing for Congress candidates inside the booth.

South First also witnessed DMK men, who did not belong to the constituency, in colour dress being allowed to be inside the polling stations.

These DMK functionaries were allotted those respective areas when the election was announced, and they organised people and ensured that they had voted.

At the 45th polling station in Veerappan Chathiram, South First spoke to one of these functionaries, who hails from Kallakiruchi. The functionary said: “We know that EVKS Elangovan will win this election, but what we want is a big winning margin.”

He also stated that this election would be a referendum on the two years of the DMK’s rule, and help in consolidating the votes in the Lok Sabha elections next year.

Shifted booths

In ward number 44, in the poll slip given by the Election Commission, it was mentioned that booths 185, 186, and 187 would be at the Government Girls Higher Secondary School in Paneerselvam Park. However, the booths were set up at St Mary’s Higher Secondary School, which was 1 km away.

Bakiyanathan, a resident of Nadu Street, told South First that it was callous of the ECI. There was no information about changing the booth at the last minute.

“Many aged people cannot walk to the ‘suddenly changed booths’ as the police did not allow vehicles near it.”

The presiding officer of the booths said “The poll booth issued to the people was 2021’s election booth. But we intimated the people about the change of the booth through the concerned local body representative”

Other problems

In ward number 178, AIADMK booth agents claimed that if one pressed the vote button for the AIADMK, the vote was cast for the Congress candidate.

The voting was stopped for a while, and the AIADMK’s allegation was overruled after the official’s scrutiny: There was no malfunction in the EVM.

Meanwhile, there was a rift between DMK and AIADMK cadres at a booth near the Kallukadai area, as the AIADMK functionaries alleged that the DMK members were influencing the voters inside the polling station.

Also read: Money flows like water in Erode East bypoll

Gold coins after the polls?

Talking to several people after polling, South First learnt that the DMK had assured them of 1-gram gold coins to the families of voters.

It was also learnt that the gold coins would be disbursed directly to the houses by the concerned in-charges of the wards, either on Tuesday or Wednesday.

A few DMK functionaries confirmed to South First the distributions of gold coins.

At 6 pm, tokens were given to the voters who were in the queue to cast their votes at nearly 65 polling stations.

“Tokens were given at a few places and a word of assurance was also given to the people. The gold coin will not be given to all, but only to DMK sympathisers’ families and the families of those who cast their votes to the DMK,” they said.

EVMs sent to strongrooms

After polling, the EVMs are sealed and taken to the counting centre at the Government College of Engineering (formerly IRTT) at Chithode, and kept in strongrooms, which were sealed.

The counting of votes will take place on Thursday, 2 March.

District Election Officer H Krishnan Unni told South First that three-tier security would be in place at the counting centre around the clock, and the strongrooms were sealed in the presence of the authorised booth agents.

“No one will be allowed inside the counting centre and the strongrooms till the seals were opened on the counting date”, he said.