Polls begins in Bihar amid heavy security

April 30th, 2009 - 9:36 am ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan Patna, April 30 (IANS) Voting for the third phase of parliamentary elections in 11 of the 40 constituencies in Bihar began Thursday morning amid heavy security arrangements in view of the threat of Maoist violence.
Long queues of voters were seen at at many of the 15,272 polling stations much before the 7 a.m. opening time.

About 1.5 million people are eligible to choose their MPs from among 203 candidates, including 12 women.

Additional Director General of Police Neelmani said that security has been beefed up as some districts where balloting is being held have been identified as Maoist-affected and are on the border with Nepal and Bangladesh.

“The India-Nepal border has been sealed. Anti-landmine vehicles have been provided to all the police stations in Maoist affected areas,” he said.

Three choppers have also been deployed for air surveillance, while mounted police personnel have been patrolling riverine areas in sensitive regions.

This phase is crucial for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as this is the battle to prove who will 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 are considered pivotal for Nitish Kumar - Munger, Banka and Kishanganj.

In Munger, his confidant and second-in-command Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh is contesting. In Banka, it is important for JD-U’s Damodar Rawat to defeat friend-turned-foe Digvijay Singh, an independent and a loyalist of ailing party patriarch George Fernandes who was denied a ticket.

And Kishanganj, which has elected Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Shahnawaz Hussain, is crucial because Nitish Kumar forced the BJP to leave it to the JD-U to prove his support among Muslims.

The JD-U’s Syed Mahmud Ashraf is taking on union minister Mohammad Taslimuddin of the RJD in Kishanganj, with 67.7 percent Muslim voters.

All eyes are also on Bhagalpur, where Shahnawaz Hussain is contesting from.

Equally important is Madhepura, also considered a stronghold of Lalu Prasad, where JD-U national president Sharad Yadav is fighting against the RJD’s Ravindra Charan Yadav.

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