Voters turned out in overwhelming numbers on Tuesday to exercise their franchise in what was widely billed as the single most important Lok Sabha election of a lifetime.
Chief Electoral Officer, Kerala, Teeka Ram Meena tentatively pegged the polling percentage at 76.82 (at 8 p.m.) even as voters remained lined up in front of booths across Kerala well after the 6 p.m. deadline.
The robust polling underscored the high level of enthusiasm for a pivotal national election fought mainly on divisive issues ranging from cow slaughter and protection of faith to gender equality and defence of secular values.
Voting was peaceful in the State but not incident-free. The Congress accused CPI(M) workers of attempting to assault its high-profile candidates K. Sudhakaran and K. Muraleedharan in Kannur and Vadakara respectively.
The UDF questioned the decision of the State police to book a voter on the charge of spreading false information for having challenged the integrity of the EVM at his polling booth in Thiruvananthapuram. Congress workers in Sooranadu in Kollam accused a paramilitary officer of assaulting them.
Minor glitches in EVMs impeded polling temporarily in a few places. Mr. Meena squashed the rumour that an EVM in Thiruvananthapuram was rigged in favour of the BJP.
At least four senior citizens, including two women, died after collapsing in the vicinity of polling stations. Two polling officers were hospitalised due to heat exhaustion. Election officials found a snake in the packing of a VVPAT machine in a booth in Kannur.
The polling picked up pace early in the day and meandered late into the night. The weather was generally sunny, except in Kasargod where rain held up voting briefly.
Leaders of opposing fronts claimed victory as the polling closed. Candidates now have ample time until counting day on May 23 to sweat the minutiae of their electioneering and meditate whether polling trends stirred up by an unorthodox campaign would swing votes in their favour.