Less then 50 percent turnout in Bihar, polling mostly peaceful (Third Lead)

April 30th, 2009 - 8:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan Patna, April 30 (IANS) An estimated 45 to 48 percent of the electorate cast their votes in the third phase of parliamentary elections in 11 of Bihar’s 40 constituencies Thursday, officials said. Polling was mostly peaceful, barring a few incidents of violence and attempts to capture polling booths.
According to officials in the state election office, polling was brisk in few constituencies and moderate in others. Around 45 to 48 percent of the eligible voters had cast their ballots, they said

Polling began slow but later picked up. “In the first three hours, only 10 percent voter turnout was recorded… it was over 30 percent in the afternoon,” an official said.

A security man was injured in Katihar constituency, about 200 km from the state capital, when some people attempted to capture a booth. Police had to fire five rounds to disperse the mob. Reports of clashes between activists of rival parties were received from Kishanganj, Begusarai, Banka, Purnia, Munger and Araria constituencies.

Additional Director General of Police Neelmani said polling was peaceful, with no major violence or casualties reported.

Reports reaching here said that residents in dozens of villages in over half a dozen constituencies including Madhepura, Banka, Munger and Supaul boycotted the elections to protest lack of development and the apathy of local leaders and officials in fulfilling their demands for drinking water, electricity, roads, bridges, schools and health centres.

About 15 million voters were eligible to choose their MPs from among 203 candidates, including 12 women.

This phase was crucial for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as it was a battle to prove who would emerge as the strong man of Bihar - Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) or Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).

Three constituencies were considered pivotal for Nitish Kumar: Munger, from where his confidant and second-in-command Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh was contesting; Banka, where it was important for Janata Dal-United’s (JD-U) Damodar Rawat to defeat party rebel Digvijay Singh, and Kishanganj, which has elected Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Shahnawaz Hussain, but Nitish Kumar forced the BJP to leave the seat to the JD-U to prove his support among Muslims.

The JD-U’s Syed Mahmud Ashraf had taken on central minister Mohammad Taslimuddin (RJD) in the constituency which has 67.7 percent Muslim voters.

All eyes were also on Bhagalpur, where Shahnawaz Hussain contested, and Madhepura, also considered a stronghold of Lalu Prasad, where JD-U’s national president Sharad Yadav faced RJD’s Ravindra Charan Yadav.

The remaining fourth and last round of polls in Bihar will be held for the remaining three seats May 7. The first and second phases which recorded 46 percent and 44 percent voter turnout - each seeing polling in 13 seats - were held April 16 and April 23.

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