Malappuram (Kerala): Over 70 per cent turnout was recorded in polling at the Vengara assembly by-election here on Wednesday, officials said.
The turnout was brisk right from the time polling began at 7 AM and according to the Chief Electoral Officer, the final turnout at the close of voting at 6 PM. was 71.2 per cent -- crossing the the 70.7 per cent turnout in the 2016 assembly polls. Polling was peaceful.
This is the first time in Kerala that the Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail is being used in all the polling booths in a constituency.
The by-election was necessitated when sitting legislator and top Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader P.K. Kunhalikutty vacated the seat after he was elected from the Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency in April this year.
IUML -- the second biggest constituent of the Congress-led UDF, has fielded two-time former legislator K.N.A. Khader, who expressed confidence that he will have a cakewalk.
His main opponent, the Communist Party of India-Marxist's P.P. Basheer, who is the only candidate among the six contenders hailing from this constituency, arrived with his entire family to cast his vote and expressed his own confidence of the outcome.
But considered as one of the strongest constituency for the IUML, in which Kunhalikutty won the 2016 assembly polls with a record margin of 38,057 votes, one of the highest margins in the state, the CPI-M however is expecting Basheer , will put up a very strong fight.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded K Janachandran Master.
The polling came on a day when Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced criminal proceedings in the solar scam against former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and several sitting and former Congress legislators.
Former Defence Minister A.K.Antony came down heavily on Vijayan using the poll day to settle political scores, while Kunhalikutty told the media in Vengara that the announcement of the probe is not going to have any impact as all know that this is nothing but political 'witch-hunting'.
Counting will take place on Sunday.