Patna, Nov 1 (IANS) Millions in 42 constituencies voted Monday in the fourth phase of the Bihar elections that were marred by a landmine blast in Jamui and homemade bombs exploding near capital Patna. There were no casualties.
More than five million people voted across eight districts in the staggered elections to pick a new 243-member house, officials said, adding that the turnout was 51 percent.
Though the last three rounds had passed off peacefully, Maoist guerrillas exploded a landmine targeting a vehicle of paramilitary forces in Jamui district. A bridge was damaged but the troopers escaped.
“The blast took place near the Chakai-Jamui main road in Betia forest. No casualties were reported,” Additional Director General of Police P.K. Thakur said.
In a separate incident, some troublemakers exploded a series of homemade bombs in Danapur near Patna to disrupt voting, injuring a woman. Five people were arrested.
A total of 568 candidates were in the fray in eight districts: Begusarai, Lakhisarai, Bhagalpur, Khagaria, Munger, Banka, Jamui and Patna.
The day proceeded peacefully except for these two incidents. Ignoring the Maoist boycott call, voters queued up outside polling booths soon after balloting began at 7 a.m. despite the morning cold.
“People lined up to vote since early morning. Till the end of polls at 5 p.m., nearly 51 percent of the 10.4 million electorate had voted,” said an official at the Bihar state election office.
In Patna, a first information report (FIR) was filed against Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad for violating the model code of conduct. He got into trouble as he entered the polling booth with his security guards.
The RJD chief and his wife, former chief minister Rabri Devi, voted at a booth in Patna’s Digha constituency.
His rival and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar lost no time in calling him a “habitual law breaker”.
“Lalu Yadav is a habitual law breaker, it is an old habit for him and he will not improve,” Nitish Kumar told reporters outside a polling booth in his hometown Bakhtiyarpur.
A case for violating the model code of conduct was also filed against Bihar Transport Minister Ramanand Singh in Khagaria district.
Amongst the heavyweights trying their electoral luck in this round were Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers Ashwini Kumar Choubey (Bhagalpur), Nand Kishore Yadav (Patna Sahib), Ramnarayan Mandal (Banka) and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) minister Damodar Raut.
Bollywood actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha and former central minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, spokesperson of the BJP, were amongst those who voted in Patna.
Paramilitary force personnel manned 85 percent of the booths. Special Task Force officials conducted air surveillance to ensure free and fair elections.
The last two rounds of the six-phase poll will be held Nov 9 and 20. Votes will be counted four days later on Nov 24.