Bihar polls: Voting under way for third phase (Second Lead)

October 28th, 2010 - 10:33 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Patna, Oct 28 (IANS) Voting was under way Thursday in the third phase of Bihar’s elections, with the stakes high for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the 48 constituencies spread across six districts.

Ignoring the Maoists’ call of poll boycott, voters, particularly women and youths, queued up outside the polling booths soon after balloting began at 7 a.m to elect a new 243-member assembly.

In some places, queues started forming outside the polling booths minutes before the voting began.

About 10.3 million people are eligible to vote to determine the electoral fate of 785 candidates in the districts of Gopalganj, Siwan, Vaishali, Saran and East and West Champaran.

Bihar police chief Neelmani told IANS that “unprecedented security measures had been taken to ensure polls without fear”.

“The central paramilitary force personnel will man 85 percent of the booths and officials of special task force would conduct air surveillance from helicopters to ensure free and fair poll,” he said.

“Besides, foolproof security was made in Maoist-affected pockets to thwart any violence,” he added.

The Sashastra Seema Bal sealed the Indo-Nepal border and the border with Uttar Pradesh.

The first two rounds of polls took place Oct 21 and 24 for 47 and 45 seats respectively.

The third phase will be a test for Nitish Kumar’s claims of good governance and rule of law as well as his development plank.

The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) currently holds 27 of the 48 seats.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal-Lok Janshakti Party hold 14 seats, Congress one, Bahujan Samaj Party one, the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) one, and Independents hold four seats in the belts.

Before Nitish Kumar came to power in November 2005, Siwan district was said to be under the rule of criminal-turned-politician, former MP Mohammad Shahabuddin.

Similarly, dacoit gangs operated freely and conducted kidnappings in Bagaha and Bettiah in West Champaran district as well as in Gopalganj.

The chief minister never fails to remind the electorate that the rule of law has been established and more than 50,000 criminals have been convicted during his rule.

He also used the fear factor to woo voters, warning of a re-run of crime if he was not voted to power.

The RJD-LJP combine wants to make a dent into Nitish Kumar’s popularity by playing the development card in Saran and Vaishali. Lalu Prasad and Paswan reminded people that they brought development as railway ministers.

Lalu Prasad is currently MP from Saran, but Paswan was defeated in the last Lok Sabha polls in Hajipur in Vaishali - considered as his stronghold.

The two leaders’ hope lies with the new caste arithmetic of Yadavs-Paswans-Rajputs. But Nitish Kumar decided to counter Yadavs-Paswans-Rajputs with the extreme backward castes and Mahadalits formula.

The heavyweights in this phase include former chief minister Rabri Devi contesting from two constituencies of Raghopur in Vaishali district and Sonepur in Saran district, JD-U’s Birshen Patel from Vaishali and BJP’s Renu Devi from Bettiah.

The next rounds of the six-phased elections will be held Nov 1, 9 and 20. Votes will be counted Nov 24.

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