Fifth phase of Bihar assembly polls begins (Lead)

November 9th, 2010 - 9:12 am ICT by IANS  

Patna, Nov 9 (IANS) The fifth and penultimate phase of the Bihar assembly elections to pick a new 243-member house began Tuesday in 35 constituencies spread across eight districts.

More than a dozen of the constituencies are in Maoist-affected areas.

Caste arithmetic plays a dominant role in this round, over the issues of development and good governance.

This phase is crucial for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is seeking the people’s mandate for another term, as well as Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad.

About 8.1 million people are eligible to vote in this round, where 490 candidates are in the fray. Baloting is being held in the eight worst drought-hit districts of Gaya, Patna, Nalanda, Bhojpur, Arwal, Jehanabad, Nawada and Sheikhpura.

The heavyweights in this phase include Bihar ministers Hari Narayan Singh, Prem Kumar, Jitan Ram Manjhi and Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha.

The first four phases passed off peacefully except for stray incidents of violence.

The last round of the elections will be held Nov 20. Votes will be counted Nov 24.

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