Around 52 percent polling was recorded Thursday in the first phase
of Bihar's staggered assembly elections that passed off peacefully
barring "minor clashes", officials said.
The elections were held in 47 constituencies spread across eight
Police said the balloting began at 7 a.m. and was conducted
peacefully. The voting, to pick a new 243-seat legislature ends
next month, and the results will be out Nov 24.
Additional Director General of Police P.K. Thakur told IANS that
the election passed off peacefully except for "minor clashes".
"There were no reports of violence, casualty or big trouble during
the polls. It passed off peacefully," Thakur said.
He said more than 100 troublemakers were arrested.
Stray incidents of clashes were reported between rival groups. At
some places, the electronic voting machines malfunctioned. Apart
from that, it was a smooth exercise in a state notorious for
Official sources said nearly 52.5 percent of the 10 million
eligible to exercise their franchise in the first round voted till
the end of polls at 5 p.m. in the Kosi-Seemanchal and Mithilanchal
"The percentage of votes may increase as final reports are yet to
reach here," an election official said.
Long queues of men and women were seen outside many polling
Up to 18-20 percent voted in the first five hours. Balloting
picked up rapidly after that.
The eight districts which went to the polls are Kishanganj, Araria,
Purnia, Madhepura, Saharsa, Katihar, Supaul and Madhubani.
Reports reaching here said that voters in over a dozen villages in
Madhepura boycotted polls and shouted slogans against the lack of
development. "We boycotted polls over the lack of roads in our
village," Suresh Rai, a villager in Madhepura said.
Mansoor Alam, another angry man who boycotted polls, said that
villagers decided not to vote as there was no electricity. Rai and
Alam were among hundreds of villagers who decided not to vote.
Interestingly, the main poll issue this election is development.
All political parties have been wooing voters by promising
There were 635 candidates in the first round. Most constituencies
fell in the rural areas. There were 10,868 balloting centres.
According to Bihar police chief Neelmani, central paramilitary
forces guarded 85 percent of the booths. The Special Task Force
maintained air surveillance from helicopters.
The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has 37 of the 47
seats. At stake is not just the future of Chief Minister Nitish
Kumar, but also the political reputations of Rashtriya Janata Dal
(RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram
The Congress, which is fighting all seats on its own, will also be
looking to break in.
The leaders also played the minority card with a sizeable Muslim
population in Seemanchal, which includes Kishanganj, Araria,
Purnia and Katihar districts.
In the Kosi belt, the JD-U hopes lie with votes of the extreme
backward castes (EBCs) to counter the caste factor in the Yadav
and Paswan strongholds. The Congress, which is fighting all 243
seats on its own, is fielding an EBC candidate to tackle the JD-U
and a Yadav to counter the RJD.
In the Mithilanchal belt, upper caste votes could be split between
the Congress and the BJP.
The heavyweights in the fray in this phase include state Congress
president Mahboob Ali Qaiser as well as four ministers - Bijendra
Prasad Yadav, Renu Kumari, Narendra Narain Yadav and Hari Prasad
JD-U leader Shivanand Tiwari claimed after polling had ended that
the JD-U-BJP alliance will increase its tally. "We are sure to do
better than last polls," Tiwari said.
However, RJD leader Shakil Ahmad Khan said the RJD-LJP combine
would surprise everyone. "We are confident to make a big gain," he
The next rounds of polling will be held Oct 24 and 28, and Nov 1,
9 and 20.
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