Tamil Nadu is going to polls on Thursday for the 38 Lok Sabha constituencies and 18 vacant Assembly seats. Nearly six crore voters, almost evenly divided between men and women, are eligible to vote in the single-phase polling.
Originally, 39 Lok Sabha constituencies were scheduled to go to polls. But thanks to cancellation of the Lok Sabha polls in Vellore, it is now being held only for 38.
Polling will take place from seven in the morning and will go on till six in the evening, except in Madurai where, because of Chithirai Thiruvazha festival, it will be extended till 8 p.m.
In the field are 822 candidates, including 63 women, for the Lok Sabha seats and 269, including 27 women, for the 18 Assembly seats. Though 22 seats are vacant in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, by-elections are being held only for 18 as the other four seats fell vacant after the announcement of the poll schedule last month.
The Assembly by-elections are crucial for the survival of the AIADMK Government as it has only a working majority after the disqualification of rebel legislators and loyalists of breakaway leader T T V Dinakaran. It has to win at least eight seats to cross the half-way mark in the 234-member Tamil Nadu Assembly.
Though Vellore Lok Sabha poll has been cancelled, the Election Commission has said that by-election to Assembly segments Gudiyatham and Ambur will be held as scheduled on Thursday.
It has not explained how distribution of money for vote has not vitiated the atmosphere in these two Assembly segments in Vellore. The commission has made arrangement for webcasting from some 30,000 booths spread across the State.
A total of 160 companies of para-military forces are deployed across the State. Also on duty will be 1.4 lakh police personnel to ensure peaceful polling. For the first time, Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) will be used in all the polling booths, along with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).