Voting under way for final phase of Bihar polls

Friday, November 19, 2010

PATNA - The sixth and final phase of the Bihar assembly elections was under way Saturday in 26 constituencies, including 18 Maoist-affected areas, spread across five districts.

People queued up outside polling booths as voting began at 7 a.m. A total of 426 candidates are in the fray for the last phase being held in the drought-hit districts of Gaya, Aurangabad, Rohtas, Kaimur and Buxar. About six million people are eligible to vote in this round.

Maoists triggered a blast in Sherghati constituency in Gaya disitrict in which one security personnel was injured, police said.

In a separate incident in Sasaram in Rohtas district, six suspected Maoists were arrested with arms early Saturday. Barring these stray incidents, polling was by and large peaceful early morning.

The Election Commission has cut down polling hours in the Maoist-hit areas till 3 p.m.

“The balloting will take place in 18 constituencies in the Maoist-affected areas only till 3 p.m.; in the remaining constituencies it will end at 5 p.m.,” an official said.

Caste arithmetic, rampant corruption, rule of law and development play a key role in this final phase.

While Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who heads the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), has alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for company, Lalu Prasad has tied up with Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).

But the region, infamous for caste massacres due to rivalry between the Maoists and the upper caste militia Ranvir Sena, also has strong pockets of supporters of the Bahujan Samaj Party of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML).

The earlier five phases to pick a new 243-member legislative assembly have passed off peacefully except for stray incidents of violence.

The outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist earlier this month vowed to intensify attacks to disrupt the election process and enforce its boycott of the polls. As many as 33 of Bihar’s 38 districts are Maoist-affected.

Votes will be counted Nov 24.

Filed under: Politics

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