Patna, Nov 1 (IANS) The fourth phase of the Bihar assembly elections that began Monday morning in 42 constituencies, which include Patna and some Maoist-affected areas, proceeded peacefully with people lining up to cast their votes early morning.
Ignoring the Maoists’ call of poll boycott, voters, particularly women and youth, queued up outside the polling booths soon after balloting began at 7 a.m. despite the cold-weather.
In some places, queues started forming outside the polling booths minutes before the voting began.
Nearly 10 percent voting was recorded in the first two hours, official sources in the Bihar chief electoral officer’s office said.
“It is a normal voting percentage (for this point of the day) as it will pick up later,” an official said.
In Patna, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and his wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi cast their votes at a polling booth in Digha constituency.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is likely to cast his vote at his native town of Bakhtiyarpur in Patna district.
About 10.4 million people, including 4.6 million women, are eligible to vote to determine the electoral fate of 568 candidates in eight districts.
The eight districts are Begusarai, Lakhisarai, Bhagalpur, Khagaria, Munger, Banka, Jamui and Patna.
Voting began at 7 a.m and will end 5 p.m. But balloting will take place in 14 constituencies in the Maoist-affected areas till 3 p.m.
Bihar police chief Neelmani told IANS that polls are so far peaceful under tight security measures, adding that borders with Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh have been sealed.
“Central paramilitary force personnel will man 85 percent of the booths and officials of Special Task Force would conduct air surveillance from helicopters to ensure free and fair pollS,” he said.
“Besides, foolproof security has been made in Maoist-affected pockets to thwart any violence,” he added.
Neelmani said that patrolling on the river Ganges and mounted police teams were also keeping a vigil.
There were, however, reports that voters in over a dozen villages boycotted the elections and shouted slogans saying they would not vote because of lack of development in their area.
The first three rounds of the elections Oct 21, Oct 24 and Oct 28 passed off peacefully. They were held for 47, 45 and 48 seats respectively.
Voting for the fourth phase is a challenging task for the Election Commission as well as the state government in view of the Maoist threat.
The heavyweights in this phase include Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwarts and ministers Ashwini Kumar Choubey (Bhagalpur), Nand Kishore Yadav (Patna Sahib), Ramnarayan Mandal (Banka) and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) minister Damodar Raut.