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    25-45 pc polling in TN, Kerala, Puducherry

    Chennai/Thiruvananthapuram: Tamil Nadu recorded about 25 per cent polling and Kerala an impressive 45 per cent till 1 PM in Wednesday's closely fought Assembly polls which largely remained peaceful.

    In Tamil Nadu, polling got off to a brisk start at 8 am reaching the 25 per cent mark by 1 PM as the voters turned out braving the scorching summer heat to exercise their franchise. Voters came out in large numbers and seen queuing up in both urban and rural areas in Kerala where the ruling CPM-led LDF and Cong-led UDF are locked in a fierce battle. In the union territory of Puducherry, about 40 per cent of the voters cast their votes by 1 PM to elect 30 members to the assembly.

    DMK leader Alagiri cast his vote at the Madurai polling booth. Tamil Nadu deputy Chief Minister MK Stalin and AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa were among the first politicians to cast their votes.

    "This time it will be a sweeping victory for us. People will give us a decisive candidate. Wait till May 13 and you will know the answer," she said.

    "Karunanidhi is going to be the chief minister for the sixth time. Jaya is complaining because she is scared of defeat. Our acheivements in the last five years will see us through," said Alagiri.

    Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK President M Karunanidhi and his arch-rival AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa, whose fortunes are being decided today, crossed swords levelling allegations against each other after casting their
    votes. Besides them, Rajnikant and Kamal Hassan were among the celebrities who cast their votes in the morning.

    Jayalalithaa alleged the state government had refused to pay the daily allowance of security personnel on election duty and expressed apprehension that DMK men might create violence and cast bogus votes in the event of them going on strike.

    Hitting back, Karunanidhi referred to the death of Vikravandi Panchayat Chairman Arjunan in an alleged attack by some unidentified persons and said "one can make out from this who is unleashing violence," hinting at her party's alleged involvement.

    Both Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi exuded confidence that their combine would get the mandate in the 234-member Assembly.

    In Kerala, Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan was among the early voters. He cast his vote in Allepey. Leader of opposition Oommen Chandy too has cast his vote in Kottayam. Battle lines have been clearly drawn between the Congress led UDF coalition and the LDF, which is riding on the wave of chief minister VS Achutanandan.

    Recent developments, such as the anti-corruption bugle call, have evened out the odds in what is expected to be a down-to-the-wire polling season. In a state with an electorate of 2.31 crore, It is the minority votes of Christians and Muslims, making 45 percent of the total electorate, that is likely to be a decisive factor.

    In Kerala, where a total of 971 candidates, including 78 women, are in the fray seeking the mandate of over 2.31 crore voters, politically hyperactive Alappuzha and Kannur districts marked brisk polling of 44 per cent and 40 per cent respectively by mid-day.

    Speaking to reporters in Alappuzha, 87-year-old Marxist war horse Achuthanandan said, "We will win majority both in Malampuzha (where he is contesting) and the state."

    Besides Achuthanandan, other prominent candidates in the fray are UDF's chief ministerial front runner Oommen Chandy (Puthupally), KPCC President Ramesh Chennithala (Harippad), IUML leader P K Kunhalikutty (Vengara) and senior BJP leader O Rajagopal (Nemom).

    Official sources in Thiruvananthapuram said voting was progressing peacefully in all the 140 segments without any untoward incident.

    (With additional information from PTI)