Kerala voters braved heavy rain this morning to vote in bypolls for five Assembly seats in the state. Nearly 10 lakh people are eligible to vote in this election, which was necessitated because MLAs holding four of the five seats were elected to parliament in Lok Sabha polls held earlier this year. A bypoll for the fifth seat was necessary because of the death of the MLA holding the seat.
On Monday, Kerala saw incessant rainfall from early in the morning. Normal life in Ernakulam was severely affected with roads, including stretches of national highways, houses and shops getting inundated.
Even as polling in five assembly constituencies is going on in Kerala, some had to brave flooded polling booths to cast their votes in Ernakulam. Railway services in Kerala have been hit.
The India Meteorological Department has issued a red alert for seven districts today - predicting a possibility of extremely heavy rainfall. These districts are Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur and Palakkad.
The rest of the districts have a forecast of heavy to very heavy rainfall - indicated by orange and yellow alerts.
As of now, for Tuesday, four districts have been given red alerts which include Idukki, Thrissur, Palakkad and Malappuram. Nine districts have given orange alerts for October 22.
"Kerala is likely to receive extremely heavy rainfall till October 22, followed by widespread heavy rainfall from October 23 onwards with gradual reduction," IMD director in Thiruvananthapuram K Satosh told reporters.
"A low pressure area is likely to develop into a depression in next the 48 hours. It is likely to move initially in north and north-east, that is towards the Indian coast till October 24, and then re-curve from October 24 moving towards the Oman-Yemen coast, as it intensifies.
Another cyclonic circulation lies over south-west Bay of Bengal of Tamil Nadu coast and under its influence, a low pressure area is likely to form over south-west and adjoining west central Bay of Bengal of Tamil Nadu and Andhra coast," Mr Santosh said.
The election for the Vattiyoorkavu is grabbing attention with a triangular battle between the Congress' K Mohankumar, CPI(M) leader VK Prasanth and the BJP's S Suresh, who is the party's district chief.
The opposition has raised the Sabarimala controversy as one of the main issues in this bypoll. The ruling Left Democratic front, led by the CPI(M), has countered with the "development" plank.
The UDF, which swept to victory in 19 of 20 parliamentary seats in the April-May elections, will hope for a similarly dominant performance in this round of bypolls. The coalition holds four of the five seats; the fifth, Aroor, is held by CPI(M) MLA AM Arif.
The ruling CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front, which fared miserably in parliamentary polls, winning only one seat, faces challenges from the UDF and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, which failed to win a single seat in Lok Sabha elections.
Nearly 900 polling stations have been set up across the five constituencies. There are a total of 35 candidates standing for election. Polling began at 7 am and is scheduled to end at 6.30 pm. The Chief Electoral Officer has sought reports from District Collectors to extend or postpone voting hours, if necessary.