CHENNAI: Polling for presidential elections in Chennai on Monday was over within two hours, with ailing DMK president M Karunanidhi being the only absentee. A team of officials took the sealed ballot box to Delhi by a 9.10 pm flight. The MLAs and MPs from Tamil Nadu constitute around eight per cent of the total votes in electoral collegium for the presidential polls.
In all, 232 MLAs from Tamil Nadu; Parakkal Abdulla, IUML MLA from Kerala, and Union Minister of State Pon Radhakrishnan, who got special permission from the Election Commission, cast their votes at the Secretariat here. Polling began at 10 am, with Chief Minister ‘Edappadi’ K Palaniswami casting the first vote, followed by Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal, Leader of Opposition M K Stalin, Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan and former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam.
“It is a secret ballot,” said the chief minister, declining to reveal which candidate he had cast his vote for. However, Panneerselvam had no such concern. “BJP’’s Vetri Vetpalar (winning candidate) will register a massive victory,” he said.Though the polling over at 11.59 am after senior AIADMK member S Semmalai – now in the rebel ranks – voted, the polling booth remained open till 5 pm as per the rules. At the end of the polling hours, the ballot box was sealed in the presence of Assistant Returning Officer and Assembly Secretary in-charge, K Boopathy, Chief Electoral Officer and Observer for the election, Rajesh Lakhoni, and headquarters Observer Anshu Prakash.
Pon Radhakrishnan, Pollachi V Jayaraman and S Semmalai, polling agents for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind, and S Vijayadharani and DMK Whip A R Chakrapani, polling agents for opposition candidate S Meira Kumar, were present when the ballot box was sealed. The two major factions of the AIADMK headed by Chief Minister Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam, and the third one headed by deputy general secretary T T V Dhinakaran, had declared their support for NDA candidate Kovind. These factions together has a total of 134 MLAs and 49 MPs.
However, Thameemun Ansari from AIADMK ally Jananayaka Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, who won on the AIADMK symbol, refused to support the BJP candidate, and instead declared his support for Meira Kumar.The DMK (88 MLAs except Karunanidhi who did not vote), Congress (8), and IUML (1) MLAs, and Rajya Sabha members D Raja (CPI) and T K Rangarajan (CPM), and four more MPs from backed Meira Kumar.Both Kovind and Kumar had visited Chennai on July 1 seeking support from all political parties. As the parties cannot issue whip in presidential elections as per rules, Kumar had sought a ‘conscience vote’ from the MLAs and MPs.