Chennai/Thiruvananthapuram: Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry go to polls tomorrow that will decide the fate of Chief Ministers Jayalalithaa and Oommen Chandy and their arch rivals and nonagenarians M Karunanidhi, V S Achutanandan and N. Rangaswamy in their respective states which will witness multi-cornered contests.
Counting of votes in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry where rival candidates fought a gruelling two-month campaign in peak summer along with West Bengal and Assam will be taken up on May 19 to decide the outcome of what is being described as 'mini' general elections.
The BJP is seeking to make inroads in Tamil Nadu and Kerala where the power has oscillated between the AIADMK and the DMK and the Congress-led United Democratic Front(UDF) and the CPI-M led Left Democratic Front(LDF) respectively for decades.
Besides AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa and 91-year-old wheelchair-bound Karunanidhi, the poll arena in Tamil Nadu also has two other chief ministerial candidates--actor-turned politician Vijayakant of DMDK-PWF-TMC combine and PMK's Anbumani Ramadoss.
A total of 3,740 aspirants are in the fray for the 233 assembly seats.
Of the total 234 constituencies, polling will be held in 233 seats as the Election Commission had deferred the process in Aravakurichi segment in Karur district to May 23 due to "unlawful" activities of candidates and political parties in "bribing" voters. Counting of votes in Aravakurichi will be taken up on May 25.
According to reports, 5417 booths are identified as sensitive and 1223 as hypersensitive and 4.75 lakh officials have been deployed by the Election Commission for poll duties in Tamil Nadu.
Ahead of the general election for the 15th Assembly of Tamil Nadu tomorrow, exhaustive arrangements have been put in place by the Election Commission.
Electronic voting machines are being transported to all the 60,007 booths.
In a handful of remote polling stations, boats and horses are being used to bring the EVMs and other election materials.
Rain is threatening to be an untimely dampener during the peak summer polling and therefore, officials have arranged plastic shelters in all the polling stations.
As ethical voting is the primary issue in the region, the election authorities are keeping close watch on the movement of money and gift materials to ensure sanctity in the election process.
Election authorities have seized more than Rs 100 crore unaccounted cash in the state, the largest among the five states involved in the Assembly polls.
More than a lakh police and paramilitary personnel would man over 65,000 polling booths across the state, which is witnessing a multi-cornered contest also featuring BJP, seeking to make a mark along with a few minor allies.
Jayalalithaa, seeking a second successive term in office, and Karunanidhi, eyeing to lead DMK to power after back-to-back drubbings in the 2011 assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha elections, are contesting from R K Nagar in Chennai and Thiruvarur respectively.
R K Nagar has the maximum number of candidates at 45, with DMK (Shimla Muthuchozhan) and VCK (Vasanthi Devi) also fielding women nominees to take on Jayalalithaa. BJP's M N Raja is also in the fray.
BJP's candidates include its National Secretary H Raja and state President Tamilisai Sounderrajan.
Positioning itself as a viable third front, the combine of DMDK, People's Welfare Front comprising Vaiko's MDMK, CPI-M, CPI and VCK and Tamil Maanila Congress led by G K Vasan has also attacked both DMK and AIADMK, which have ruled the state alternately in recent decades, and pushed for a change.
Tamil Nadu is known to generally elect one clear winner from the two Dravidian giants, DMK and AIADMK, since 1967.
In Kerala, the ruling UDF and LDF, which had gone hammer and tongs at each other during the electioneering, are keeping their fingers crossed even as BJP is hoping to get a toe-hold.
A total of 1,203 candidates, including 109 women, are contesting for the 140 assembly seats..