Bihar’s peaceful poll marred by one landmine blast (Second lead)

April 23rd, 2009 - 6:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan Patna, April 23 (IANS) Bihar witnessed peaceful polling barring a landmine blast triggered by suspected Maoists in which five people were injured during the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections in 13 of the state’s 40 constituencies Thursday.
More than 40 percent voter turnout was recorded in Bihar till 4 p.m. after a slow start. “Polling picked up after a slow start in the initial hours despite a scorching sun and fears of violence,” an official of the state Election Commission said.

Suspected Maoists blasted a landmine at Bhitarhawa under Patahi block in East Champaran district when polling was underway Thursday afternoon, in which three policemen and two polling officials sustained minor injuries. Patahi comes under the Sheohar constituency. “No serious injury was reported,” said Additional Director General of Police (headquarters) Neelmani.

Neelmani said barring the landmine blast by Maoists, no untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the state. Polling began at 7 a.m. amid high security. More than 100 troublemakers were arrested.

According to officials of the state Election Commission here, more than 40 percent voters cast their ballots till 4 p.m. and long queues were seen at different polling centres in all constituencies in the afternoon.

Reports reaching here said dozens of villages boycotted the elections in over half a dozen constituencies, including Darbhanga, West Champaran, Sheohar and Muzaffarpur, to protest the lack of development.

There are several heavy weights, including six central ministers, a filmmaker and a former cricket player, in the fray in Thursday’s balloting. An electorate of 16.9 million will decide the fate of 189 candidates, including nine women.

There are 17,130 polling stations for the second phase.

The six central ministers testing the electoral waters are - Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief and Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) Raghuvansh Prasad Singh from Vaishali, M.A.A. Fatmi from Darbhanga, Akhilesh Prasad Singh from East Champaran, Raghunath Jha from Valmiki Nagar and the Congress’ Shakil Ahmad from Madhubani.

Filmmaker Prakash Jha of the LJP is fighting a tough battle against the Congress’ Sadhu Yadav, brother-in-law of RJD chief Lalu Prasad. Former cricket player Kirti Azad of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying his luck against Fatmi in Darbhanga.

Neelmani said that security has been tightened in Sheohar, East Champaran, West Champaran and Badaha districts, which are considered Maoist strongholds.

Two air force helicopters have been deployed for surveillance and the border with Nepal sealed to check any attempts at cross-border violence.

The remaining two rounds of polling in Bihar will be held April 30 and May 7. The first phase was held April 16 for 13 seats.

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