Campaign ends for first phase of Bihar polls

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

PATNA - Campaigning ended Tuesday for 47 constituencies in Bihar’s flood-prone belts that go to polls in the first round of the six-phased state assembly elections Thursday.

The over two-week long canvassing saw top leaders of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comprising Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) combine as well as the Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Communist Party of India- Marxist (CPI-M) hitting the campaign trail.

The period witnessed war of words and was occasionally marred by personal attacks. The run-up to the election saw spirited campaigning even by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party MP Rahul Gandhi, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar. All of them addressed large election rallies to woo voters.

About 10.6 million voters will decide the fate of 635 candidates in the fray for the first lot of the 243 assembly constituencies. The areas going to the polls are in the flood prone and poverty stricken Kosi-Seemanchal and Mithilanchal belt. Most of the 10,454 polling booths are in rural areas.

The leaders also played the minority card with a sizeable Muslim population in Seemanchal, which includes Kishanganj, Araria, Purnia and Katihar districts.

In the Kosi belt, JD-U hopes lie with the votes of the extreme backward castes (EBCs) to counter the caste factor in the Lalu Prasad and Paswan stronghold. The Congress, which is fighting all 243 seats on its own, is fielding an EBC candidate to take on the JD-U and a Yadav to counter the RJD.

In the Mithilanchal belt, upper caste votes could be split between the Congress and the BJP. The heavyweights in the fray in this phase include state Congress president Mahboob Ali Qaiser as well as four ministers - Bijendra Prasad Yadav, Renu Kumari, Narendra Narain Yadav and Hari Prasad Shah.

There are several candidates with criminal records in the fray, including gangster Shankar Singh of LJP.

There are also several wives of convicted criminals-turned-politicians contesting the elections. These include Bima Bharti, wife of gangster Awadesh Mandal, who is contesting on a JD-U ticket, Congress nominee Lovely Anand, wife of criminal-turned-politician Anand Mohan, and Ranjeet Ranjan, wife of former MP Rajiv Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Marxist leader Ajit Sarkar.

After Oct 21, the next rounds in the elections will be held Oct 24, Oct 28, Nov 1, Nov 9 and Nov 20. Votes will be counted on Nov 24.

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