Fifth phase of Bihar polls under way (Second Lead)

November 9th, 2010 - 11:10 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 amid tight security in 35 constituencies, over a dozen of which are Maoist-affected.

The constituencies, where voting is being held Tuesday, are spread across eight 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.

“Five to seven percent voting was recorded in the first one and half hour,” sources in the Bihar chief electoral officer’s office said.

According to reports, 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.

Bihar Police Chief Neelmani told IANS that polls were under way peacefully under tight security.

Neelmani said that central para-military force personnel were manning 90 percent of the booths in Maoist-affected constituencies and officials of special task force were keeping air surveillance to ensure free and fair polls.

The fifth 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. Polling 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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