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A voter turnout of an estimated 71.7 per cent was recorded today for the Kerala assembly polls that passed off peacefully amid tight security. Election office sources said 71.7 per cent is the tentative polling percentage and it was likely to go up to 75 per cent after finalisation of voter turnout. Around 2.60 crore people were eligible to vote for the 140-member Assembly.

Congress-led ruling UDF and CPI-M headed opposition LDF are in a neck and neck electoral fight in the state where BJP is striving hard to make a maiden entry into the assembly.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Opposition leader and 93-year-old CPI-M veteran V S Achuthanandan, CPI(M) politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan, 83-year-old Kerala Congress(M) supremo and former Finance Minister K M Mani were among the 1,203 candidates in the electoral arena.

For Chandy, this was the 11th consecutive straight contest from Puthupally, while for Mani, it was the 13th stint from Pala.Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan, said to be LDF’S Chief Ministerial candidates, contested from Malampuzha and Dharmadam respectively.

Kerala has a total electorate of 2,61,06,422, of which female voters number 1,35,08,693 and males 1,25,10, 589. There are two members of third gender in the electoral rolls.

Except for stray incidents of violence, no major incidents were reported from any part of the state, police said. Over 52,000 police personnel were stationed across Kerala as part of security.

Special security arrangements including web casting, were made in 3,176 polling stations identified as ‘sensitive, critical and vulnerable’.

Due to rains in some parts of Kerala, polling which was slow in the initial hours, picked up in the afternoon touching 71.7 per cent at close.

Total voter turnout in the 2011 state assembly polls was 75.11 per cent. People were seen queueing up in various booths in the state, much before polling began this morning, especially in some coastal areas.

In a related incident, a 70-year-old voter, who was standing in a booth at Perambra in Kozhikode, collapsed and died before casting his vote.

Nuns and priests, including Cardinal Mar George Alancherry of Syro Malabar church and Latin catholic Major Archbishop Soosai Pakiam were among those who voted.

Some incidents of malfunctioning of voting machines in certain booths were also reported. But they were rectified immediately and polling was not affected.