Voting moderate but largely peaceful in Bihar (Third lead)

April 23rd, 2009 - 9:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan Patna, April 23 (IANS) Bihar recorded a moderate 44 percent voter turnout in the second phase of Lok Sabha polls Thursday in 13 of the state’s 40 constituencies, election officials said.
The state witnessed peaceful polling barring a landmine blast triggered by suspected Maoists in which five people were injured in Sheohar constituency. In another incident a group of angry villagers attacked police and polling officials as well as journalists in Hajipur for alleged bogus voting in favour of ruling Janata Dal (United) and in Darbhanga constituency for alleged attempt to molest women.

About 44 percent voters of the 16.9 million electorate exercised their franchise in the second round, according to official estimates after polling ended in 13 of the state’s 40 Lok Sabha constituencies.

“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.

In the first phase, Bihar recorded 46 percent voter turnout in 13 of 40 constituencies April 16.

Suspected Maoists carried out a landmine blast 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.

Polling began at 7 a.m. amid high security. More than 100 troublemakers were arrested.

The district magistrate and superintendent of police of Vaishali ordered the arrest of JD-U candidate Munna Shukla for allegedly creating trouble and intimidating voters during the polls in Vaishali constituency.

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 lack of development in the area.

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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