million vote in peaceful fifth phase of Bihar polls
Tuesday November 09, 2010 08:29:20 PM,
Four million people in 35 constituencies defied the Maoist boycott
Tuesday to vote in the Bihar assembly elections' fifth and
penultimate phase, which was largely peaceful except for Maoists
torching a bus and minor clashes.
An estimated 50 percent of the 8.1 million electorate eligible to
vote in this round exercised their franchise by 5 p.m. when voting
ended in the eight drought-hit districts of Gaya, Patna, Nalanda,
Bhojpur, Arwal, Jehanabad, Nawada and Sheikhpura, officials said.
Balloting in 14 of the 35 constituencies in Maoist affected areas
ended by 3 p.m. The 490 candidates in round five of the elections
to the 243-seat assembly included ministers Hari Narayan Singh,
Prem Kumar, Jitan Ram Manjhi and Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha.
Bihar Chief Electoral Officer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh said voters,
particularly women and youth, queued up outside polling booths
soon after balloting began at 7 a.m.
"People lined up to cast their votes early morning. It was a
peaceful election despite the fact that elections were held amid
threats of Maoist violence," he said.
According to official sources, the defiance of the poll boycott
call was evident as better than expected turnout was recorded in
all Maoist-affected constituencies.
Bihar Police chief Neelmani echoed Rakesh when he said the
elections were largely trouble-free.
"It is a big relief. The polls were by and large peaceful though
Maoists torched a bus. It was an attempt to create terror. Minor
clashes and attempts to disrupt voting at a few booths were also
reported," Neelmani told IANS.
He said central paramilitary force personnel manned 90 percent of
the booths in the Maoist-affected constituencies and officials of
the Special Task Force maintained air surveillance.
More than 280 troublemakers were arrested to ensure a peaceful
ballot. Among those nabbed was former minister and Congress leader
Aditya Singh, held along with his supporters at a polling booth in
According to police officials, armed Maoists set a bus afire near
Jaipur village in Gaya district, considered a Maoist stronghold.
Minor clashes were reported between Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)
supporters and those of the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and
its ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In some places, electronic voting machines (EVMs) broke down
delaying the elections. In Bhojpur district, some miscreants fled
with an EVM while another was damaged in Nalanda district.
According to reports, voters in over a dozen villages boycotted
the elections and shouted slogans, saying they would not vote
because of lack of development in their areas.
With only one more round to go before the elections conclude, this
election was considered crucial for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as
well as for his rival, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad.
The first four phases also passed off peacefully except for stray
incidents of violence. The last round will be held Nov 20. Votes
will be counted Nov 24.
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