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Brisk voting in Bihar despite Maoist attacks

Thursday, October 21, 2010 10:43:34 PM, IANS

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Patna: Millions voted in 45 constituencies in the second phase of assembly elections in Bihar Sunday despite two attacks by Maoists who have called for an election boycott.

Balloting began on a low key early in the morning but picked up later, officials here said. By afternoon, 31 percent of the 9.8 million eligible voters had exercised their franchise.

Long queues of men and women formed outside most polling stations in the districts of Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Samastipur, Motihari, Sheohar and Sitamarhi.

Maoists tried to disrupt the polling in two places in the Runni Saidpur constituency of Sitamarhi.

The rebels abducted four polling officials but released them within an hour, a police officer said.

The Maoists also tried to ransack a polling booth and burn documents in the same area, Additional Director General of Police P.K. Thakur said.

Around 15 percent voting had been recorded in the first four hours. The voting began at 7 a.m. amid tight security "and has so far been (largely) peaceful," Bihar police chief Neelmani told IANS here.

Neelmani said there were no reports of violence except for minor clashes and a move by troublemakers to disturb polling at a few booths.

According to reports reaching here, voters in over a dozen villages boycotted the polls and shouted slogans saying they would not vote because of lack of development in their area.

In a few places the electronic voting machines broke down, delaying the electoral process.

The central paramilitary forces manned 85 percent of the polling booths. The Special Task Force used helicopters for air surveillance.

The second phase of voting will decide the fate of 623 candidates. Most of the 9,952 polling booths are in rural areas.

The stakes are high for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as well as for the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Ram Vilas Paswan.

The Congress, fighting the election on its own, is eying to make its presence felt in the Tirhut-Mithilanchal belt, which is known a RJD-LJP bastion.

Four more rounds of polling will take place Oct 28, Nov 1, 9 and 20. Votes will be counted Nov 24. In the first phase Thursday, balloting took place in 47 out of Bihar's 243 assembly seats. 






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