Bihar elections: Ballot scores over bullet in Red Zone

Defying the diktat of the Maoists, who had unleashed a reign of terror in the past, people in the six Naxal-infested districts came out in large numbers to cast their votes for peace in the second phase of polling for the ongoing Bihar Assembly elections on Friday.

In total 55 per cent voters – three per cent more than the 2010 Assembly polls – exercised their franchise in the 32 constituencies spread over Gaya, Jehanabad, Arwal, Kaimur, Rohtas and Aurangabad districts amid elaborate security arrangements.

Although 23 of these constituencies were considered sensitive because of the Naxal threat, voters, especially youth and women, decided to send out a clear message by casting their votes without fear.

As in the first phase of polling held on October 12, women outnumbered men by about three per cent in casting their votes. While 57.5 per cent women cast their votes, only 52.5 per cent male voters exercised their franchise during the day.

Additional Chief Electoral Officer R Lakshamanan said Kaimur recorded the maximum 57.86 per cent in the second phase while Aurangabad had the least 52.50 per cent polling. Other districts such Rohtas, Arwal, Jehanabad and Gaya recorded 54.66, 53.21, 56.94 and 55.54 per cent polling respectively.

apprehensions of poll violence because of the poll boycott call given by Maoists but heavy deployment of security forces coupled with the combing operations by security personnel in all the districts on the eve of the election not only pre-empted the threat but also instilled confidence in the locals in the Red zone, which had witnessed some of the worst massacres in the past.

Nonetheless, some attempts were made during the day to disturb the poll process. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), weighing 12kg and 10kg were recovered from Phulwaria and Harni village in Gaya district, which were defused by security personnel. A can bomb was also found from a primary school in Rafiganj constituency of Aurangabad district.

Elsewhere, security personnel arrested 34 persons and seized a Bolero vehicle and a motorcycle during the day.

Around 86.13 lakh voters, including 40.19 lakh women, were enrolled in the 32 constituencies which went to polls on Friday. A 104-yearold woman was the oldest person to cast her vote in Bhabhua constituency of Kaimur district.

In a first, seven polling stations in Gaya Town constituencies were managed by all-women teams. Prominent among those whose fate were sealed in the EVMS in the second phase of polling were former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, contesting from Imamganj (reserved) and Makhdumpur (reserved) and the Bihar Legislative Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary, who is fighting against Manjhi. The serpentine queues of voters, comprising mostly women and youth, left both the major alliances making contradictory claims. While the grand alliance of JD (U), RJD and the Congress said the voters had given their thumbs-up to the policies pursued by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, NDA leaders claimed that there was no doubt about the outcome of the Assembly polls.

Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the BJP would have a majority on its own to form the next government in Bihar. Leader of the Opposition Nand Kishore Yadav said the NDA was leading 2-0 after the second phase.

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