PATNA: Defying call for a poll boycott by Maoists, around 52 per cent of the 98.44 lakh electorate cast their votes in 45 assembly constituencies in Bihar in the second phase of elections which was marred by stray incidents of violence.
The elections were held in the shadow of the Friday landmine blast in Sheohar district by suspected Maoists in which six policemen were killed. The blast prompted the EC to reduce voting time in Sheohar and Belsand constituencies by two hours.
The election saw a heavy turnout of voters in the two seats, the chief electoral officer, Mr S K Rakesh said here on Sunday.
Polling ended at 3.00 p.m. at other Maoist-affected constituencies of Paroo, Minapur and Sahebganj.
Defiance to the poll boycott call was evident as heavy turnout was recorded in all five Maoist-affected seats.
While Paroo recorded 62 per cent voting, Sahebganj registered 52 per cent, Minapur 53.72 per cent, Sheohar 49 per cent and Belsand 48 per cent.
Maoist posters asking voters to boycott the poll had appeared on government buildings and polling stations in East Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur districts.
Security was stepped up by sealing off the border with Nepal with intensified patrolling and air surveillance, the Director-General of Police, Mr Neelmani said.
He said 118 preventive arrests were also made for a smooth conduct of the polling.
A total of 623 candidates, including 46 women, were in fray in the 45 constituencies spread over six districts which are East Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur and Samastipur.
Stray incidents of violence occurred in Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur and Darbhanga districts. Heavily-armed Maoists raided a polling centre at Subaigarh in Runisaidpur constituency and burnt down the electronic voting machines besides other materials early Sunday morning before voting began, the SP, Mr Rakesh Rathi told PTI.
Presiding officers, Mr Baldeo Prasad Yadav, Mr K N Sigh and Mr Satyendra Patel went missing after the incident, the returning officer for the seat Mr Shivdani Singh said.
Substitute polling materials, including EVMs, and poll personnel were rushed to the booth and voting began as per schedule, Mr Singh said.
In another incident, the vehicle of state JD-U minister Mr Dinesh Prasad Kushwaha was attacked allegedly by supporters of an Independent candidate Ms Madhavi Chandra at Minapur assembly constituency in Muzaffarpur district, official sources said.
An FIR was lodged against Ms Chandra in this connection. Mr Kushwaha escaped unhurt, while his bodyguard was injured in the attack, they said.
The vehicle of ruling BJP nominee, Ms Veena Devi too was attacked in Gayghat assembly constituency in the district, but no one was injured.
Some people complained of irregularities in voters’ lists in Muzaffarpur town and staged demonstration. The district Magistrate, Mr Anand Kishore has ordered a probe into their complaint.
In Darbhanga, a policeman opened fire in the air at a booth in Hayaghat assembly constituency, after some persons tried to snatch his weapon. No one was injured.
The vehicle of BSP candidate in Shehoar constituency, Ms Pratima Devi was damaged when activists of her party clashed with supporters of RJD nominee Mr Ajit Kumar Jha outside a booth at Piprari in Sheohar constituency.
There were defects detected in EVMs at some booths but they were promptly attended to, officials said.
Official sources confirmed that people boycotted poll in over half-a-dozen booths in Hayaghat, Alingar and Minapur constituencies complaining of the alleged indifferent attitude of authorities towards development of their areas.
Polling, however, remained unaffected, the DGP added.
The Congress and the BSP contested all the seats. The ruling JD-U contested 28 seats and its ally BJP 17. The RJD contested in 34 constituencies while LJP in 11.
CPI-M and CPI put up eight candidates each while CPI-ML (Liberation) contested in 11 seats.
Political stalwarts whose fates were sealed in the EVM include the state RJD chief, Mr Abdul Bari Siddiqui (Alinagar), his JD-U counterpart, Mr Vijay Kumar Choudhary (Sarairanjan), ministers Mr Ramnath Thakur (Samastipur), Mr Dinesh Prasad Kushwaha (Minapur) and Ms Shahid Ali Khan (Sursand).
The LJP chief, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan’s brother Mr Ramchandra Paswan took on CLP leader, Mr Ashok Kumar in Kusheshwa Asthan.
The RJD chief whip, Mr Ramchandra Purve contested from Parihar, while former Union minister Mr M A A Fatmi’s son Mr Fraz Fatmi was in fray from Kevati.
Central paramilitary forces were deployed at most of the polling stations besides armed police from other states, the Bihar Military Police and District Armed Police.
Senior state officials, including the IG and commissioners of Tirhut division conducted air surveillance with Special Task Force personnel, the DGP said.