The nearly two month-long gruelling campaigning in peak summer for the May 16 Tamil Nadu assembly election that is witnessing a multi-cornered contest comes to an end on Saturday. More than 5.79 crore voters in 234 assembly constituencies will decide the fate of 3,776 aspirants, including four Chief Ministerial candidates -- incumbent J Jayalalithaa of AIADMK, DMK's M Karunanidhi, DMDK's Vijayakant and Anbumani Ramadoss of PMK.
The curtains will come down on campaign at 5 PM on Saturday, giving the leaders a breather from the hectic and punishing schedule during which they criss crossed the length and breadth of the state wooing the voters.
Jayalalithaa is seeking a record second successive term in office in the state, where elections have dethroned the ruling party in the recent decades.
The Election Commission has taken all steps to ensure a high voting percentage, with its #Mission100percent awareness campaign that saw actors, sports persons and other celebrities besides social network platform Twitter and Facebook being roped in to educate the voters to cast their democratic right.
As many as 65,616 polling booths have been set up in 234 constituencies in 32 districts of the state, up from the 54,016 in 2011. As many as 6,300 booths have been identified as sensitive, where security and other monitoring mechanisms have been stepped up.
Of the 234 seats, 44 (SC) and two (ST) are reserved constituencies. In 17 constituencies, the EC is implementing Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), which will enable a voter to verify that his vote has been cast to the intended candidate.
Among the top leaders in the fray are Jayalalithaa, DMK chief Karunanidhi, his son M K Stalin, Chief Ministerial candidates of DMK-PWF-TMC combine and PMK, Vijayakant and Anbumani Ramadoss respectively.
AIADMK, contesting 227 seats, has tied up with some small outfits, and they will also be contesting on the party's Two Leaves symbol.
Party General Secretary Jayalalithaa is contesting from R K Nagar in the city for a second term. DMK is leading an alliance comprising Congress and several smaller outfits and the Karunanidhi-led party is contesting on 180 seats with the nonagenarian leader in the fray from native Thiruvarur for a successive term.
While the opposition including DMK and BJP harped on prohibition and corruption, Jayalalithaa sought votes for her government's five year-performance.
In one of the hard fought electoral battles, flow of illegal money was a major challenge for electoral authorities which seized over an unprecedented Rs 100 crore of unaccounted cash. Of this, Rs 37 crore has, however, been returned to the owners on submission of documents. Counting of votes will be held on May 19.